The Parents' Review
A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Those Holy Fields *
by the Rev. C.H. Chase
Being Sunday Evening Thoughts for Our Children Concerning:/p>
"Those holy fields,
I. The Old Mosque
"Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom."
After a long weary drive of seventy miles, what is this beautiful city which bursts upon us surrounded with orchards? This is Damascus. Here is the River Abana, yonder to the south is Pharpar, and over there is snowy Hermon. We are just entering one of the oldest cities in the world. You remember Abraham's faithful steward once lived here. What is that long building with those minarets, like little church spires? That is a Moslem mosque. The Moslems, or Mohammedans, do not believe in our dear Lord Jesus as God the Saviour. Their little girls are very ignorant, and hardly ever go to school, and when they go out in the streets their faces are all covered, so that no one may look at them.
* Having had the great happiness of a ride through the Holy Land, I write these short papers with the hope that they may make some dear children happier on Sunday evenings, and help them to picture more perfectly the scenes of Holy Scripture.
This building has a wonderful history. On the same place where it now stands stood the Temple of the Sun God Rimmon where Naaman worshipped; then a Greek temple, and after that a Roman temple. At last the Christians built a church, and worshipped as you and I do. But the Moslems drove the Christians away, and turned the church into a mosque, or temple of their own. On the wall high up outside there is a very strange writing in Greek. The words, put into English, are these:
"Thy kingdom, O Christ, is an everlasting kingdom, and Thy dominion endureth throughout all ages."
The letters were, of course, carved when the building was a Christian church. I wonder if the Moslems know they are there, or whether, when they do know, they will destroy them.
However this may be, the truth remains; the kingdom of Jesus is for ever. Dear child, you and I belong to this kingdom. We are "Members of Christ." We belong to Jesus; we are part of His body the Church. Have you ever seen the Queen? would you not like to see her, and to hear her speak to you? You belong to her; you are her subject.
Ask your King to make you loyal to Him, true to Him; ask Him to fill your heart with His love; and when you say, "Our Father,..Thy kingdom come," ask to be made worthier of your King-obedient to His laws-thoughts, wishes, plans all just as He would have them. Then some day you shall see the Head, once crowned with thorns, crowned with glory.
Do not forget the many many children in Damascus and all over the world who know not your King, who have never even heard His Name. Ask that they may know Christ. So shall His kingdom come; and His dominion-that is, His rule-be throughout all ages. What joy to have helped on that glorious reign, to have extended the kingdom of our King.
"He is my Lord! Oh, I am glad of this,
"Beautiful for situation."-Psalm xlviii. 2.
Damascus is a truly typical Eastern city-Eastern dress of every colour is seen in the streets-veiled women, turbaned men, bazaars, quaint shops, old houses with marble fountains, courtyards with orange and lemon trees, sites of holy places-some certain, some very doubtful, as the street "Straight," the house of Ananias, the oak of Abraham. Many things combine to make Damascus one of the most interesting ancient cities. From the time of Eliezer (Genesis xv. 2) until to-day, the world's news has been discussed in its bazaars and at its gate. Empires have risen and fallen, but the capital of Syria remains, and to-day contains 150,000 inhabitants. Within, Damascus, like all Eastern cities, is full of dirt and uncleanness. The dogs are the only scavengers, and they prowl about the lanes and bye-ways, and make night hideous with their howlings. From without, as we have seen, Damascus is indeed beautiful-its praise has been sung generation after generation.
Mohamet, when he came as a donkey boy from Mecca, and first beheld it, said, "Man can have but one Paradise, and as I look for the heavenly, I will not enter the earthly one."
Thirty miles of gardens stretch far and wide. Peaches and apricots grow in abundance, and when in blossom form a garland of flowers round the city. Fair, indeed, is this ancient Damascus: "The eye of the East," "The handful of gold in its goblet of emerald," as the Eastern writers have called it. But, oh, how sad it is to think of all the ignorance within! How few know about our Blessed Saviour. What hatred is there towards those who bear His Name! In the year 1860 no less than 3000 Christians were put to death within its walls. Damascus is like some of those tombs we saw in the Mohammedan burying-ground-white without, but within full of dead men's bones. Dear children, what is beauty? Beauty is the sacrament of goodness; it is the outward sign of what is within.
Be not proud, then, of your eyes, or hair, or cheeks; if they are beautiful, God has made them so. See to it that you are not like Damascus, beautiful only without-cross, fretful, impatient, discontented within. Let your character be beautiful, let your life be true and pure, so will many love you, so will you grow up to be a blessing to many; and when your cheek grows pale, and your eyes dim with age, and your hair has lost all its golden tints, you will be beautiful in His sight Who sees not as man sees, but reads the secrets of the heart.
"The King's daughter is all glorious within"-
"Blest are the pure in heart,
"I counsel thee to buy of Me."
The bazaars, or the streets of shops, in Damascus are full of interest. Here we see the merchant, or shopkeeper, sitting cross-legged among his wares, probably smoking his long pipe, called a hookah.
The silversmith's bazaar is full of precious stores; here the merchantman weighs his articles in scales before he sells them to his customer.
But, besides these regular sellers of their goods, you see men walking up and down, and calling out in strange words which you cannot understand. Who are these? These, too, are sellers of various articles. Here comes one; he has sweetcakes, and he cries, "Buy, buy, buy of me." Here is another, with a waterskin, and he cries, "Ho! Ye thirsty, drink." While here is yet a third; "Lo, the distribution; lo, the distribution!" is his invitation. This is a custom called "Sebil." A rich man has bought the cool drink of this lemon-seller, and he is to give it away to all who need.
There is One who comes unseen into this our world, in which you and I live, and He, too, cries like those street sellers in Damascus: "Buy, buy. I counsel thee, buy of Me." Who is this? It is the Lord Jesus-our rise, ascended Lord.
He cries, "I counsel thee, buy of Me gold, white raiment, eye-salve." Not real gold, but that which will make you really rich-"the riches of His grace," which will supply your every-day needs.
Not real raiment, a new dress for Sunday. But the pure, white, clean heart, and the beautiful holy life. For the white clothing means the righteousness of God's children.
Not real eye-salve. But something which will give sight to your soul, and make you know more clearly about Jesus and His love, and His way in which He would have you walk.
Do you sometimes feel sad because you have been naughty, cross, selfish, proud, or disobedient? Then hear your dear Lord cry, "Ye thirsty one, come to Me and be satisfied. Ho! The distribution. What I give is free, without money and without price."
"I heard the voice of Jesus say,.
IV. The First Day's Ride
"It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks."-Acts ix, 5.
Again and again do we look back upon the beautiful city, for we are leaving it, never probably to see it again. Lovely does it look in the early morning sunshine, with its white blossoms, its minarets, and its palm trees.
What a charm is there about that first ride; how everything is new and strange. We pass an ass laden with thorns; what can these be for? We ask; and then of course we are reminded of the text, "Or ever your pots be made hot with thorns," and we know these are for kindling the fire. We pass a field of young wheat: we see the hard pathway,
"His raiment white as snow."
After our first night in tents, we begin to ascend the lower spurs of Hermon. We have seen the "old white-headed man" before us since leaving Damascus, now we pass over its rocky slope. Glorious mountain, "the loft peak," as the name Hermon means, "breast-plate of ice," as it was anciently called, how lovely it looks this spring eventide, when, weary with some nine hours in the saddle, we rest at its base. Our eyes have, at last, seen the Land of Promise, our feet have at length been planted where Moses longed to stand. The view as we come near our camp is very fine-the valley of the Jordan richly green, the waters of Merom glittering from afar, the river like a thread of silver, and near us, oh, such flowers, the scarlet and violet anemones, the pink and white cyclamen, orchids, and by the roadside rich clusters of maiden-hair fern.
But what makes that mountain, not only glorious, but very sacred? Was it not here, on one of its lower heights, that the man Jesus became transfigured," His raiment white as snow?"
Many of you have seen photographs or painted copies of Raphael's great masterpiece, "Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration." When you are older, some of you will go and see the picture itself, and gaze on that marvelous upturned face of Jesus, and read in those eyes the look which tells of the pure soul within.
He was "whiter than snow." Hermon's snows were nothing as the pure whiteness of our Holy Saviour. Oh, glorious Jesus! well might the apostles fall down and hide their faces in the grass, overpowered by "the Excellent Glory."
"Whiter than snow," such is a promise for you, dear child, if washed in the precious blood of Jesus Christ.
Many a naughty thing have you done. Perhaps, even to-day, your heart tells you all is not "pure within." Then come to-night, this very night, and tell Him all. Confess the sin to Him, and ask Him to make you very, very sorry, and then believe He will wash all away, and make you quite clean. Whiter even than the snows of Hermon.
"White as snow! Oh, have you watched it
"White as snow! can my transgressions,
"Yes, at once, and that completely,
"Who hath despised the day of small things?"
Banias is the name which still clings to the spot, sacred in turn to Greek, Roman, and Christian, where the river Jordan takes its rise. Under the great white Hermon, not far from the old castle of Banias, is a cave, and carved on the rock outside the case are the words: "The Priest of Pan." Here stood many hundreds of years ago a Temple of Pan, the god of shepherds, the god of woods and trees. Here stood afterwards a Roman temple, and in it Titus worshipped after his conquest of Jerusalem. Here, later still, stood a Christian Church, where holy men praised and honoured the Christ of God.
To this spot came the Christ Himself, when, after His glory on Hermon, he cured the poor lad indwelt by an evil spirit. On this spot St. Peter, whose name means a rock, confessed Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God. Banias is the source of Jordan with its several springs; here they trickle forth from the rocks near the cave's mouth, and flow on amid tangle and brushwood, soon mingl'ng into one stream, which flows on and on till the river becomes a lake, and the lake empties itself by a river, till at last that river forms the Dead Sea, thirty-two miles long by some four miles broad. "Small beginning make great endings," and who shall despise the small things? I seem to hear some little boys saying to himself:
"Oh, dear me, I am so tired of drawing these horrid lines; why should I be bored to copy that stupid shell again?"
I look on into the future and I seem to see twenty years hence a picture in the Royal Academy drawing its crowds of admirers.
The little restless lad is now the famous artist. The straight lines, the beautiful curves, the graceful outlines, copied again and again were small beginnings; now they have resulted in this masterpiece of beauty. Persevere, press on, day by day, boys and girls, who read this. Do a little more, and then a little more; do that little well, as well as you can, then some day your "small beginnings," if they do not result in "the great endings" of success and renown, will have the really great endings of work well done, and your character, strong and patient, will help others, perhaps unknown to yourself.
"The lesson learnt in patience then
"I am the Resurrection and the Life."
A Sunday at Banias (the old Caesarea Philippi) had been a very happy day-a Sunday in tents under a grove of olive trees close to Jordan's bank. Next morning, at 7.45, we mount our horses, and leave behind us a group of children, little Arabs in their bright dresses, who give us a cheer as we go on our way.
We pass the miserable mud huts of the village with their flat roads, built in among the ruins of the old city of Herod's days. We soon reach a grove of fine trees, and a Moslem burial-ground. What is that noise-a low wailing sound? It is a poor woman in great grief. What is she doing sitting there swaying to and fro? She is by the newly-made grave of her only boy. Here she comes morning by morning, knowing no comfort and no comforter. Now, contrast this poor Moslem mother with one whose life is written-one who died many years ago in Christian England. Five of her children had gone home to be with Jesus years before; one son lived to grow up to be a man, and to be a comfort and joy, when he, too, was called home. The mother stood for the sixth time at a child's grave side, and as the service was read which tells of Life and Hope, she was heard very quietly to say to herself: "I believe in the Resurrection of the Dead."
Children, "He is risen," such is the greeting in Russia on Easter morn. He is the Resurrection and the Life. Let us live as those who believe this. Let us rise to higher things, higher thoughts, higher aims, higher deeds. Then when sorrows come, when any dear ones pass out of sight, we shall have a joy the poor Moslem mother knew not of, we shall have hope which will live on in Him, the comforter at Nain and Bethany-in Him who said, "I am the Resurrection and the Life."
"Jesus lives! no longer now
"Jesus lives! for us He died;
"The tents of Kedar."
Kedar was one of Ishmael's sons (Genesis xxv. 13). His Arab descendants to-day are the Bedouin. These Bedouin are the tent dwellers in Palestine, while the Fellahin are the dwellers in the villages.
We have left the site of Dan behind us, that northern city where the calf was set up by Jeroboam. We have passed a heard of buffaloes grazing, and now, not far from the Waters of Merom, we see a large Bedouin encampment. It is something like a camp of gypsies, but the tents are black, made of a dark cloth of woven camel or goat's hair. This is the cilicium at which St. Paul worked as a tent-maker. What miserable dwellings these tents of Kedar must be in winter-how cold and damp! They are lined with a matting of straw, but are dirty, and smell horribly.
The faces of men, women, and even children, are sad to look into-so wretched, so depraved. Oh, that some dear lad's heart might say, "God sparing me, I will some day go and tell these forsaken Moslem wanderers of Him who came to seek and to save those that were lost." How a good, loving young doctor, with his hearth full of sympathy, might win for Christ these tent-dwelling Arabs, who know not of any hope beyond their life of lying and stealing, and moving from place to place for pasture for their cattle. Dear children, as you lie down in your comfortable beds to-night, surrounded by the love of fond ones, with all the comforts of a happy English home, think of the poor Bedouin out in their far-off, unhealthy, marshy camping grounds; think of them, with their black bread to eat, their abbas alone to cover them, their straw beds upon the ground. Above all, think of their ignorance, their terrible ignorance, of all that can ennoble and make happy. First thank God your Father very much for His love to you, for His kind care of you, for all the comforts He has given you. Then ask Him to send some one to teach the Bedouin, who, as well as you, are His children, that they, too, may have a hope beyond this life, that they, too, may know of that love which lights up the path here, and leads on to the brighter path by-and-by:
"For peaceful homes and healthful days,
"Thou didst not spare Thine only Son,
IX J A --U N I.
"The land that was desolate shall become like the garden of Eden."
The croaking of innumerable frogs in the marshy grounds by Merom's waters is not a pleasant lullaby. But here we are, ready for a canter in the early morning across the old battlefield (Joshua xi. 5). What a battle that was, and how it fixed the northern boundary for Israel, as the battle of Beth-horon did the southern boundary. We pass hills to our right burrowed with numberless caves. Suddenly we reach a spot which is a pleasant contrast to anything we have seen before. Here is a village, the houses all built of stone. Numbers of men, women, and children are gathering out the stones from the land, others are road-making or wall-building; carts such as we have seen in Switzerland are in use; all seems prosperous. This we learn is a Jewish colony, settled on land purchased by the Rothschild family, and its name is Ja-uni. The land long left desolate, uncultivated, is now becoming fruitful, and the words of Ezekiel, here at last, are proving a true prophecy.
That is being done in far-off Palestine may be done, dear child, in your young life. Have you had a piece of garden given you which had been neglected, and have you worked hard at it, seeing your seeds produce pretty flowers, and your mustard and cress grow-oh! so quickly?
So it may be with your life. The great, the noble, the good were once young, like you, perhaps with fewer opportunities.
Shall you wait till all is very easy to follow right, to do duty? No; take things as you find them. Use the present to do the duty that waits and wants you. Your life is as yet uncultivated, like the soil of Palestine; you may make almost anything of it if you will. Plant in it noble aims, holy thoughts, kind deeds, and they will spring up a goodly crop. Then, by-and-bye, with greater opportunities, planning wisely, feeling nobly, and doing unselfishly, you will be a blessing to very many.
Along this path may the Good Spirit lead you forth. Hearts are desolate and bare; it is given to you to make them bright, joyous, if you will.
Cultivate your own heart first, afterwards you shall do something to make you dear land of England like the Lord's own Garden of Eden.
"Do the thing that's nearest,
X. First View of Galilee
"Jesus went about all Galilee teaching.and healing."
"Cursed is he that removeth his neighbour's landmark." We learn the meaning of these words soon after passing Ja-uni. Each man's plot of ground is marked off from the next plot by a small heap of stones, so a dishonest man could easily in the night remove this heap, and add to his own plot, making his neighbour's smaller. A beautiful transparent butterfly, with blue and red spots on the hinder wings, is caught for little ones at home. The fine swallow-tailed butterfly just escapes us; in England it is rare, but here is, perhaps, as common as any. Indeed the land is rich, not only in flowers, but in birds and insects.
A shout from some of our party on in front followed by a sudden hush, tells of something unusual in store for us. In a few moments we reached a rising ground, and there before us, stretching away for some sixteen miles, is Galilee-that sea, or lake, dearer than any other to the heart of every Christian. There it lies, calm and peaceful amid the hills, somewhat pear-shaped, the larger end towards the north.
Well may we one and all be deeply moved. We are looking at "those Holy Fields" where eighteen hundred years ago Jesus walked, at the lake which He sailed, at mountains whereon He prayed for nights and days. This was Galilee, His Galilee; it is like a porch to a temple, and we feel entering upon very holy ground.
What other life is like that of Jesus? what other land has been consecrated by such holy feet? Here He went about teaching and healing. "Never man spake like this man." Learn, then, to love His words. Study them carefully till they sink into your hearts, and become part of your life. Wherever He went they brought the sick, for never man sympathised so tenderly with all sufferers. Learn the secret of tenderness, find out the spell of His power.
Behold the Man-perfect man. Never think because Jesus was so great and good He is too high above and beyond you as not to be in touch with you. Those among whom He went about did not think so. Even the little children ran to Him, and climbed upon his knees, and were not afraid of Him. "Perfect love casts out fear," and His perfect love cast out their fear.
"Jesus who lived above the sky,
He went about, He was so kind,
XI, The House of Fish
"A fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon and bread."
To have been in a fishing-boat on Galilee is a pleasure never to be forgotten. In the early morning we launch out into the deep water; some of us lie in the hinder part of the ship, and as the oars splash, and the sail flaps with the wind, we think of many a scene in that life which makes those waters for ever sacred.
Leaving the plain of Gennesaret, where our camp was pitched the night before, we round a promontory, and seeing a ruin, we land amid tall rushes by an old aqueduct crossing a small stream, and find a tent.
What a sight now greets us: two fishermen are at their breakfast; one of the two a grand-looking old man, with the manners of a nobleman. Before them is a fire of charcoal with fish baking in the coals, and bread. The old man courteously hands us a blackened fish, as he sees wonder on our faces, and we partake. Bethsaida, the home of SS. John and James, SS. Andrew and Simon. Was it not here, on this very shore, that the Son of God, after His Resurrection showed himself? The fire of coals, the fish, the bread, all reminded us of that last meal with His loved ones.
Bethsaida, "the house of fish," such is the meaning of the name.
In the early Christian days, soon after the Master had gone home, the fish became a very sacred emblem, and in the catacombs at Rome, that wonderful burial-place of martyrs and of saints, little metal fish are to be found with the words engraved thereon, "Mayst thou save." What had the fish to do with the Christian faith you ask? Why did the Greek for fish (Icthus) become a sort of Christian watchword?
The letters of this word are a kind of acrostic, thus:
C (i) Jesus.? (U) Son.
The letters in Greek form the first letters of words, meaning Jesus, Christ, Son of God, Saviour.
What a simple yet grand creed that was for men sick of the sin and luxury of a reign like that of the Emperor Nero-for poor slaves ill-treated by their masters.
Jesus was perfect man, so He could feel for them; but He was the Son of God the Saviour. He had shown this by His Resurrection. So He could save them, and raise them up to a new life here, and a glorious life afterwards. Let nothing shake your faith in this same blessed fact. Say it again and again: "I believe Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord."
"This is the place; here on this strand
"Here to His little faithful band
"Thrice happy are mine eyes to see
XII. The Old Synagogue
"These things saith the faithful and true witness." Revelation iii. 14.
Leaving ancient Bethsaida, we sail northwards, keeping near the western shore till we reach a place called Tel-Hüm, meaning High Hill, probably the site of Capernaum. One solitary palm tree is the only living thing, except snakes, which abound. Ruins are everywhere, covering some half a mile by a quarter of a mile. Here is one large building* with broken columns, capitals, dom Ente's, all lying on the ground amid thorns and thistles: what can it be? Probably it is an old synagogue. If this be so, have we not here the very building which the kind centurion saved for his Jewish neighbours: "He loveth our nation, and hath built us a synagogue." (St. Luke vii. 5.)
What is this large stone with strange carving? Surely here, at either end, is what looks like a vine branch, and in the middle a vase or pot.
* [Major Wilson notes four rows of columns, seven in each row, the favourite Jewish number.]
+ [This stone measures 5 feet 8 inches long, 25 inches broad, 27 inches deep. The stone is 6½ inches deep, 8 inches wide.]
This stone is, with little doubt, the lintel of the principal entrance into the synagogue.
May not the vase represent the pot of manna, an emblem not out of place in a Jewish place of worship? Now turn to St. John, chapter vi, and read there the Master's words about "The manna" and "The living bread," and then see where it says, "These things said He in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum." We can speak with no certainty, but it may be, lying there amid the ruins of that ancient city is a stone upon which Jesus looked, and about which He spoke. If so, what stone can be more sacred?
"Thou Capernaum which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell." (St. Matthew xi. 23.)
Such was the terrible woe spoken by the lips of "the faithful and true Witness." How terribly true was the prophecy. Not a stone upon another of proud Capernaum, not an inhabitant left, not even a tent there, as at Bethsaida.
"The word of the Lord is true and all His works faithful."
Never doubt His word, never doubt Himself. He is always faithful to His promises, always true to His word.
St. John, in his wonderful vision, saw the same Jesus in His glory, as he had seen Him as man by the lakeside. He was still the same; His resurrection, His ascension, had not altered Him.
Trust Him! Trust Him! Trust those words of His. Words of love for loving hearts, words of warning for disobedient hearts, words of sad judgment for disloyal hearts, words of comfort for sad, aching hearts.
Listen for His words now. Then some day you will hear His own voice as St. John heard it coming across the sea of glass, like the sound of many waters: "He laid His right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not, I am alive for evermore."
"He will never fail us;
"The sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias."
Our servants, with tents and horses, have gone before us to Tiberias on the south-western shore of the lake; so leaving the ruins of Capernaum we row back in the heat, there being not wind enough to fill our sail. We pass Mejdel, the old Magdala, the home of Mary Magdalene, who loved her Lord so truly; one solitary palm marks the spot, as one palm marks the site of His city, Capernaum.
Tiberias, so called after the Emperor Tiberias, is a town with some 5000 people, so we are very glad to find our little tents pitched on the grass close to the white beach, where innumerable shells are to be gathered. What a peaceful two days we spend here, wandering along the hills, bathing in the lake, gathering flowers, or rowing on the waters.
Tiberias is one of the five sacred Jewish cities. A strange tradition is believed by these ignorant Jews. They say their Messiah is going to rise out of the lake at Tiberias, and set up His throne at Safed, a city in the hills not far off.
You can I know better than this, do we not? We know that their Messiah and our has come. That upon this lake He sailed over and over again; that on it He walked; that by its shores He showed Himself after His resurrection. And we believe He is coming again with His holy angels coming in the clouds, "with power and great glory."
Shall we not be witnesses for this? Not witnesses like the martyrs Polycarp or Ignatius, or the girl Theodora, or the boy Philemon. The cry is not now, thank God, "To the lions," "To the lions." You can witness in the nursery, the schoolroom, or the playground, for the risen, ascended Jesus. Never be ashamed to own him as your Lord and Christ. Never hear His name taken in vain without reproving it.
You can own Him in your life by a quiet, loving service. Courage under difficulties, self-control when tried, gentleness when taunted, these are the marks of a witness for Christ. Such witnesses are linked on to a holy band, for whom every Sunday the churches of God give thanks to Him. "The noble army of martyrs (witnesses) praise Thee."
"Thou art coming O my Saviour,
O the joy to see thee reigning,
"The country of the Gadarenes."
Not many visitors to the Holy Land cross over the Lake, or Sea, of Galilee, to the further shore. Several of our party take a small boat and row to the other side, exactly opposite the town of Tiberias. Landing on the pebbly beach, the green slope is soon noticed, for here the hills shelve down almost to the water's edge. With little doubt this must be the spot where the swine, startled by the spirits of evil, ran down the precipice, and perished in the waters. After a short but rather steep walk some caves are seen in the rocky sides of the hills. On closer inspection these turn out to be tombs-rock tombs. They are each divided into two chambers, an outer and an inner chamber. Here it was, in all probability, that the poor men possessed with the evil spirits had their dwelling-- Living in the outer chamber while the dead were laid in stone coffins hollowed out of the solid rock in the chamber within.
Near by are considerable ruins of an old city, one of those ten cities which in our Lord's day gave to this eastern shore a large population, where to-day there are only a few wandering Bedouins.
What a marvellous miracle was that of Jesus in driving out those spirits of evil. Not only must we believe His words, Who was "true and faithful," but we must "Believe Him for His very work's sake."
God our Father in Heaven is ever working miracles around us. The growing corn; the vine with its grapes; the sickness healed; the evil driven out of the heart; these are His works; and Jesus did but compress into a few moments what the Father does in weeks or months. "My Father worketh hitherlo, and I work," He said. "The Son can do nothing of Himself but what He seeth the Father do."
The miracles of Jesus. Let us illustrate them by a very simple object. You know what a wonderful thing an organ is (have you ever seen one taken to pieces?), what knowledge is needs of sound and mechanics to build one; yet, what use are these laws or the instrument itself, however perfect, without the presiding will of a musician who causes them to act? If a child comes to his father at the organ, and asks him to play, not a mournful tune, but a joyous one, and the father suddenly changes his key and tune at the request of the child, he does not break any laws by the change. So Jesus Christ, being God, at the request of poor sufferers worked miracles; and, without altering the laws by which His Father worked, or breaking those laws, He used His own will, and made those laws obey Him. How this should increase our reverence for Him, should it not?
At His bidding spirits of evil, knowing Him, came out of those possessed. At His command proud waves and storm-clouds ceased to rage, and all was calm. As then you read of all His wondrous works, say to yourself, "I believe, not only all His words that they are true, but all His works that they are faithful."
"Here on this lake when rushed the sudden storm,
"Then at His word the waters were as glass,
XV. The Horns of Hattin
"Consider the lilies."
We leave the Lake very early in the morning. The air is clear and fresh as we ride forth. Skirting the town wall of Tiberias we ascend the hill. As we do so, the sun rises and lights up the mountains on the further shore with a golden hue. It is a glorious scene; the white beach, the blue sea, the mist rolling away, and the town all silent. Peace, lovely peace, seems to reign supreme:
"Fair lake whose sapphire waters have a shore,
At last we arrive at a level place amid the hills; some sixty feet above this plain rise two peaks or horns. Here it was, probably, that our Lord spoke to the multitude of people which gathered round Him from Galilee, Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judaea, and from beyond Jordan. "He went up into the mountain," St. Matthew tells us; and "He stood on the plain," says St. Luke. That is to say, He came down from the Horns of Hattin (as they are now called), and stood on this level place amid the mountains.
Here He spoke those wonderful Beatitudes. Here He gave that prayer which, I hope, we all use every day, and call our Lord's Prayer.
We notice one beautiful patch of flowers, which here grow plentifully all around. Is this just where He sat? The lake below Him, God's blue sky above Him; Safed, "the city set on a hill which cannot be hid," opposite Him; tired, weary crowds around Him, and the flowers gay, fresh, beautiful, under His feet.
"Consider the lilies," said Jesus. "Even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these."
I open an album at my side-there it is, the bright scarlet flower I plucked on the very spot. It is safe, safe from winter's storms and summer heat, no wind can blow it to pieces now.
So you are cared for, guarded, watched over. You are put in the book of His remembrance. "If God clothe the grass of the field which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven," to form a kindling for the fire, will He not much more care for you?
Tell Him, then, everything. Trust Him in the little things. Is your lesson hard? don't cry over it, ask Him to help you. Is your brother unkind and quarrelsome? tell Him all about it. Is some plan upset because it is a wet day? don't be angry with the weather, your Father orders all.
Do you sometimes lie awake and trouble about the future, the going away from father and mother to school life? Leave all to Him who cares for flowers, and children too, and will guide all your ways.
"And here grow lilies of the field,
"At morn, amid those upland solitudes,
XVI. The Water Jars
"They filled them up to the brim."
What is this clean-looking village with seemingly two Christian churches? This is Kefr Kenna, the supposed Cana of Gospel story. Bright-eyed children run beside our horses, of course, calling out "Bachsheesh," "Backsheesh," which means, "give us some money," at the same time they make the sign of the cross, to tell us they are Christian children.
We soon reach the village wells, and as it is about noon, numbers of villagers, men, women, and children, have come with their water-jars to draw water. Is this the very spring from which the servants drew the water at the bidding of the Lord Jesus? I like to think so, and get off my horse to drink some of the water out of a tall red pitcher. We have but little faith in the tradition that the very water-jars used at the marriage feast are to be seen in one of the churches near at hand, so we do not go to see them, and content ourselves with lingering at the village well.
When Jesus turned that water into wine, He made that wine the very best, and plentiful for all.
Is not this how God is ever working, "enough and to spare?" It is so with the flowers. It is so with the water from the fountain. It is so with the fish in the sea. It is so in the insect world. Everything He makes is very good, very bountiful.
See, then, the goodness of God, the greatness of God everywhere.
Before you go to sleep to-night count up the things He has given you, which He might have withheld, make a list of them on paper, and then kneel down and tell Him how good He is for so loading you with His benefits. Here are a few which I have thought of for you; I am sure there are many, many more:
My Mother My Garden
Many of these, those poor children of Cana know nothing about; but, no doubt, they have other things which make them quite as happy.
"Yes, God is good; in earth and sky.
"For all Thy gifts we bless thee, Lord,
"He shall be called a Nazarene."
"Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?"
After parting with the children of Cana, a ride of some two hours brings us to a steep hill; whence we catch sight of Carmel on our right, with the blue Mediterranean. Then as we reach the top of the hill, there, below us, and on the slope of the hill opposite, lies Nazareth, the home of Jesus from his childhood upwards.
Beautiful for situation it certainly is, and very clean and well cared for does it look compared with other Eastern villages.
The people, some 4000 in number, are mostly Christians, and there are several churches, schools, and monasteries, so these large buildings give it a town-like look. We are glad to rest under the shade of some olive trees and to watch the mules "unlade their burdens, and the servants unpack tents and furniture. In half an hour from the time the first mule reached our camping ground, all is ready for us in our tents, which have now become quite home-like. Soon many of the villagers come round to us and ask us to buy something as a remembrance of Nazareth. One boy has little plaster models of water jars, and the upper and nether millstone. Another has cards with dried flowers from the hillsides and valleys round. We start as soon as it is cool enough to wander round the village. We see one large stone, oh, so worn, and I picture to myself the Holy Child in His games of play, running and jumping from the top of that large boulder, as any of you would love to do. For was He not very happy in those boyish days, in His play with the children of Nazareth?
"Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Such was a proverb among the Jews. That little village among the hills was despised and looked down upon. Yet, He came forth from it, Who is the greatest among men. Jesus Christ is not the only one who has come forth from a quiet village to do noble work.
"Ploughmen, shepherds, housemaids, nurse-girls, crowd the glorious pages of the history of the blessed ones whom the Church loves to honour. "There is a grand church in Sussex which honours as its founder a shepherd-lad, who, when his poor mother was paralysed and could not work, made a two-wheeled chair, and pushing her from town to town, sold his goods to support them both.
"There is a little blue flower called Speedwell, or Veronica, named after a saintly maid-of-all-work." Rev. S. Baring-Gould.
Let not one child say, "I am in a humble home far away in a village street, I can never be great." If you are not to be great, you can at least be good and do good, and "Kind hearts are more than coronets."
Who knows, but if you are good and do good, that some day the village street and the house where you were born may not be visited by thousands, and tens of thousands, because you, too, have been entered on the roll of the heroes, whom all good men love to honour.
"A city guilded by the mountains steep,
"But 'tis not beauty that this town endears,
"The Lord is with thee, fear not."
It is sundown at Nazareth. A busy scene indeed. Here they come from all parts of the village: mothers, maidens, children, each with her pitcher for a draught of that pure clear water from the Virgin's Fountain. What a picture it makes; the bright dresses, the arched stone fountain, the fifteen hills around, the white dwellings, the old Greek church hard by, the deep blue sky, the grey green olives, the cactus hedges. As we stand and watch that lovely maiden with her dark hair, her brown eyes, her rosy lips showing the beautiful white teeth, we go back in thought nearly nineteen hundred years. It is eventide at this same fountain. A peasant maiden comes with her pitcher, her name is Mary, some rough village folk put her on one side. She is patient, she is gentle, she humbly waits while others fill their tall red jars, and then as she bends down to lift up her pitcher to her head, she sees a stranger; beautiful, very beautiful; she hears a voice which sounds like Heavenly music; "Hail thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou--fear not;" and the Angel Messenger is gone.
Home to her mother runs the wondering maid, and from the lips of the good St. Anne learns the meaning of a salutation, strange in her ears. All generations shall call her blessed. Yea, and she is blessed. But, blessed, too, may you be, dear child, if you learn as Mary did, gentleness, humility, and simple trust.
Oh, that I could look into those clear blue eyes which read this page, and see in them the mirror of a soul pure within. Oh, that I could see those bright rosy lips which now move as they read these very words, and know they never speak a cross, unkindly or hasty word.
Oh, that I could whisper in that little ear of yours as the Angel did to Mary--"The Lord is with thee--fear not."
You will not be afraid, will you? Not afraid of wicked men, or wicked spirits, or wicked thoughts--not afraid of darkness or of storm? You will say it to yourself again and again, "Fear not," "fear not," the Lord is with me--I will fear no evil--then peace God's own holy peace will deep your heart.
"Mine eyes are watching by thy bed,
XIX. The Carpenter's Shop
"Is not this the Carpenter?"
After leaving the Virgin's Fountain, our guide leads us along the narrow streets of Nazareth, until we reach an open shop door, just within stands the village carpenter plane in hand--near him is a half-finished cradle; on the wall are saws, awls, and other tools. The ground is covered with chips and shavings, we pick up some to be kept for the eyes of little people at home; for is not the Carpenter's Shop at Nazareth a place full of sacred memories?
We next follow our guide to a small dimly lighted church, said to be built of the very spot where the Old Carpenter's shop stood when Joseph was the carpenter, and the boy Jesus helped him at his trade. Over the altar of this church is a truly natural picture; Mary, the Blessed Mother, is seated with her distaff, Joseph is standing near with a carpenter's tool in his hand, and the Holy Child Jesus, with a face which tells of love and obedience, with an open scroll, is about to ask a question.
The carpenter's shop, the picture of Jesus; both set us thinking; and we ask ourselves the question; "Is not this the Carpenter? He who was very God of very God? He who worked miracles?" It was a poor beginning, as man measures for Him, to spend so many years at a carpenter's bench.
Does some dear child, who reads this despise and look down upon others who are poor or in a humble position, and feel ashamed to be seen in their company? Remember God has set a special honour upon poverty, and the carpenter at Nazareth has made sacred the cottager's home.
Learn to treat all with respect, and gentle, kindly courtesy.
No real lady or gentleman ever despises or looks down on others. Many a gentle man is found in working man's dress, and many a noble man works at a carpenter's bench.
"He came down to earth from Heaven,
"And, through all His wondrous childhood,
"As His custom was He went into the Synagogue."
Here is indeed an old building, these columns at its entrance look as if they might be almost any age. The building is now a Christian Church; but it is on the site, and possibly built with some of the very stones; of that Synagogue to which Jesus so often went, and where, when a man, He stood up to read:
"You know what a Synagogue is. It is a Jewish place of worship." (From "Life and Words of Christ," by Geikle,)
The Synagogue was arranged, as far as possible, after the plan of the old Tabernacle. The space inside was not seated but was for the general congregation. A little beyond the middle was a raise platform. Here the reader stood to offer prayer, or read the lessons from the holy writings. In the wall at the farther end was a recess, before which hung a veil or curtain. In a box or ark was kept the Sacred Rolls, wrapped in several covers of linen and silk, the outer richly worked with gold and silver thread. Before the veil hung a lamp, and beside it a seven branched candlestick. Rabbis and elders sat on raised cushions in the chief seats near the veil, facing the people.
The men came in to worship in their long flowing robes, with turban of various colours, some simple, some costly--with fringes to their garments; and every man, and every boy over thirteen years, would wear the phylacteries (the little leathern boxes containing texts on parchment) on arm and forehead. Deep was the reverence in the heart of every Nazarene for this his house of prayer. Intense was the longing in many hearts for the coming of their Messiah, as they worshipped with their faces towards Jerusalem.
Jesus went as His custom was into the Synagogue, for He loved to worship His Father there, but little did His fellow-villagers know that He was their Messiah, who stood among them.
Do you love God's house, dear child? Are you very reverent as you draw near to worship your Father there? Do you really pray from your young heart as Jesus did? Do you like to hear the Old World stories of Hebrew heroes as Jesus did? Do you praise in Psalm as Jesus did?
You say, I find it so hard to be attentive. I cannot understand when the minister stands up to read or speak. I must be very unlike what Jesus was. Dear child, if the loving heart is there, He knows it; if you want to worship Him, He knows it. Cultivate a reverent praiseful spirit, and you will grow to love His house and be glad and rejoice in Him.
"We love the place, O God,
"It is the house of prayer,
"Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown."
In St. Luke's Gospel we read that the Nazareth people took Jesus to the brow of the hill, and tried to cast him down, because they were angry at the words He spoke in their Synagogue.
On that very spot, so it is said, now stands the Nazareth Orphanage. Here some seventy little girls learn to sing the praise of the Holy Jesus.
On a bright Sunday afternoon we visited this home of love. Sweetly did the children sing their own favourite hymn: "We are little Nazareth children." Eagerly do they listen to a message from some English school girls.
"Shall I carry back a message from you?" I asked.
Every eye sparkles, every hand is put out, every face says plainly, "Oh, yes!"
"Well, but how can I take seventy messages?" Then comes a happy thought. "The youngest child, and the eldest, shall send a message." So here they are. The message from the little lame girl, the last in the bottom row of the gallery:
"The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want."
The message from the eldest girl, the one nearest the wall in the top row:
"Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown."
The messages have been carried across the sea, and you, dear child, now receive them.
A Nazareth maiden and you are thus linked together--you will never see her face on earth. I trust you will see her in the King's own country. Then she will, perhaps, ask: "Did you have my message--'Hold fast?'" Whatever you do, hold fast by God. Whatever happens, cling to Him. Say it over and over again. He is, he must be, he ever will be, my Father. Hold fast the Faith. "The faith once delivered to the saints." The Creed is like an old military flag; be proud of it, thankful for it, fight for it.
Some have died to defend the Faith; do you hold it fast, say I do believe, I will believe. Some are like reeds by the waterside, blown about by every false doctrine and false teacher. Never mind what others do; as for you, be firm.
Hold fast right doing.
Right doing follows right thinking, just as wrong doing follows wrong thinking. When other children older than you try to persuade you to do wrong say, "No; I will hold fast to the right." Then no man shall take thy crown, for
"A crown He will bestow
Nazareth children and English children will swell the triumph of the King, all crowns will be laid at His feet, the feet of the all glorious Jesus of Nazareth.
HYMN OF THE NAZARETH CHILDREN
"We are little Nazareth children,
"For the Lord, who loves the children,
"Cares that they should keep in memory
"And we know that He is coming,
"Jesus, Saviour, dwell within us,
"The battle is the Lord's."
On Sunday evening, just before sunset, we ascend the hill above Nazareth--holy is every step of those green slopes.
The Fountain of the Virgin, Joseph's workshop, the Synagogue, these are all changed: but the everlasting hills are the very same which the sacred feet of Jesus so often trod.
The view as it is spread before us to-night is the one He over and over again gazed upon.
There to the west lie the blue Mediterranean, Carmel, the scene of Elijah's sacrifice, and Kishon, the brook where Baal's prophets were slain. To the north we can still see Hermon, with its snow cap; the Horns of Hattim, and the village of Cana.
To the east rises Tabor, a curious rounded hill, covered with stunted olive trees.
To the south stretches the great plain of Esdraelon or Jezreel, the battle-field of Hebrew history. In its center is "the little hill," "the lesser Hermon," as it is now called. Round its base cluster the three villages, Nain and Endor on its north side, Shunem on its south. While away over the plain, now one vast corn-field, are the hills of Gilboa and the site of Jezreel, Ahab's city.
Full indeed of Bible story is almost every spot which is visible. How the boy Jesus must have loved to stand where we now stand, and picture the days of His forefathers, and those battles which made His own Israel a people mighty and renowned.
Were not those battles the Lord's? Was it not Jehovah who fought for Israel? The sun is about to sink, but before it is lost to sight it lights up with glorious crimson glow the western sky, while opal patches here and there are like windows in Heaven.
The place, the association, the sunset, all speak to us of Hope. Is not life, your life and mine, dear child, a battle-field? Are we not soldiers pledged to fight?
The battle is the Lord's.
"To-day the noise of battle,
Victory is ours if we persevere; if we look to our Captain's power. Never mind what odds are against us.
Could anything seem more hopeless than Israel's condition when the women were afraid even to draw water, when the villages were almost deserted, when the travellers crept by byways? Then God arose and delivered Israel. Do you sometimes find all things against you? Right doing very hard? Temptations very strong? Cry out to Him, your Mighty Champion, and He will come to you, for the battle is His.
"Thine, O Lord, is the Power and the Glory and the Victory."
"Strong in the Lord of hosts,
"Stand then in His great might,
"That, having all things done,
"Let brotherly love continue."
What are these women doing at work here in the fields, sitting on the ground, and with great care picking out some small plant? They are gathering out the tares from among the early green wheat. Thompson, in his "Land and the Book," tells us that only the most practised eye can do this, and that, though he had been years in Palestine, he could never tell which was tare and which was wheat.
We have now come to a grassy plain, with a wooded hill on our right, covered with almond and olive trees. This is Dothan, "the two wells," as the name means.
Pits abound just in this neighbourhood. Was it not here that Joseph found his brothers, and was sold by them to the merchantmen? It is said the old caravan road to Egypt passed through Dothan. Joseph must have had a long way to go before he found his brothers, for Hebron is at least twenty-five hours' ride from this place.
Very unbrotherly were those brethren of Joseph, were they not? How indignant we have felt when reading of their jealousy and cruel, untruthful ways!
How we have admired Joseph in his loving forgiveness, not taking advantage of his position for revenge, but giving his brothers the best of the land! Have you any brothers and sisters, dear child? How are you treating them? Are you jealous or angry if one of them is chose for some pleasure and you are passed over? Because you are stronger and bigger, do you sometimes ill-treat the little ones?
The time will come of you to leave home, and go away among bigger boys or girls at school. How you will miss the ones at home then! How you will long for brother's arm to be once more around your neck, or sister's cheek laid against yours at night. "I wish I had been kinder," you will say to yourself, as you lie awake then. "I wish I had not spoken that cross, sharp word; I wish I had not given that rough, unbrotherly blow."
See to it that from this day Joseph be your copy. Yes, and one still more loving than Joseph, that Holy Jesus, who was gentle, meek, and lowly. For His sake see to it that "brotherly love continues"--
"When deep within our swelling hearts
Then we may stay the angry blow,
"I will make Samaria as an heap of the field..I will pour down the
stones thereof into the valley."
What is this stone amphitheatre? What are these rows of columns? This is the ancient Samaria. Here is a very miserable modern village built amid the ruins. Curious, indeed, is it to see beautiful pieces of carving lying close to some mud dwelling, or some tall pillar standing up amid thorns and nettles. Ruins of a beautiful old Crusaders' church stand close by the pool where Ahab's chariot may have been washed after the fatal battle. A shepherd boy, with his short club (the "staff" of Psalm xxiii.) and a sling, follow us as we wander along the ruined arcade which leads to the western gate of the old city. An underground dungeon is shown us, with a most curious stone door. This door is said to be like some found in the giant cities of Bashan. Was St. John shut up in this very dungeon? At Samaria Herod had his court, and here his wicked wife schemed and wrought evil.
This old city, built by Omri, is full of ancient story. Take your Bible, and look out all the passages where it is mentioned. Truly its glory has departed; it is now but a heap. Literally the stones are poured down into the valley. Nowhere else have we seen such masses of ruins. Terrible is God's judgment when it falls on nation, city, church, or individual.
There is a law, and it is a very awful one: As a man sows, so he reaps. Every one and every thing is always worse for wrong-doing. How many men and women to-day are bearing the consequences of sins committed in their boyish or girlish days?
Those columns lying outside our tent--we nearly stumbled over them in the dark--remind us how certain it is sin shall not go unpunished. Avoid, then, evil--resist it, hate it. "Be sure your sin will find you out." Think not a few early sins won't matter; that wht others do you may do without the flush of shame.
At the same time, never forget that there is One who forgives sin. Our Creed tells us this: "I believe in the forgiveness of sin." Sin may, and often does, leave its terrible consequences, even forgiven sin. Yet Samaria, poor, miserable, ruined Samaria, had the Gospel preached here. Philip the Deacon preached Christ on this very hill-top. Here the Holy Ghost was given when SS. Peter and John came down and prayed for the Samaritans.
Judgment, yet mercy too--such is ever our Father's way of working. Judgment is "His strange work." He delights in mercy--"Mercy rejoiceth against judgment."
"Sowing the seed by the dawn-light fair,
"Even unto this day when Moses is read the veil is not their heart."
We wend our way through the streets of the town Nablous, the ancient Shechem, till we reach the door of an old building. This is the Samaritan synagogue. The High Priest of this small Jewish sect joins us, and we ask to see the old scroll under his charge. After many requests for much backsheesh he lets us into his synagogue, a small, cold-looking building. Our shoes are left at the door, but our hats remain on our heads.
From behind a curtain at one end of the synagogue the High Priest brings out a scroll in a case covered with a green veil; this, however, is not the one we came to see. Again he brings another in a similar case also with a green veil, but this does not satisfy us. At last, after a great deal of bargaining, he shows us a very old scroll. It is written in old Hebrew or Samaritan characters, and is said to be a copy of the Pentateuch, or the Five Books of Moses. What its age is no one knows, but the Samaritans claim for it the time of Abishu, a grandson of Eleazar, the son of Aaron. This ancient roll of parchment is covered with a beautiful silver case, engraved with a ground plan of the Tabernacle. It is covered with a red veil worked with gold thread.
How true is it of these poor Samaritans that, just as a veil covers their books of the Law of Moses, a veil covers their hearts and minds, so that they know not the Lord Jesus as their Messiah.
Have you ever thanked God that as a Christian child God's Word is open for you, that you may read it when you will? That He has called you to the knowledge of His grace, and faith in Him? That He has given you the whole Bible, Old and New Testaments, to teach you and to make you wise? How do you read your Bible? Do you read it every day? Do you really love it? Let no one laugh you out of reading your Bible daily. You may not be able to understand all about it or how it was written. Take it as God's own message to your soul.
Read some book such as St. John's Gospel, or the Psalms, or Proverbs straight through. Do not try to read too much--rather read a few verses and think about them. Then try and gather out one verse to take with you through the day. Above all, ask the Holy Spirit to give you an unveiled heart as you read it.
He can take away the veil of ignorance, or the veil of unbelief, or the veil of prejudice. He can make that Word a lamp to your feet and a light to your path.
The Church of England has given four lessons for every day, and at the beginning of the Prayer-Book there is a table of these.
During the last few years Bible Reading Unions have been formed for children, and cards printed of daily portions suitable for the young. The addresses of two of such Unions are here given; it might help some of you to feel you were reading daily what thousands of other children all over the world are also reading:
Children's Scripture Union,
Just as I had written this paper a schoolboy wrote home for two Bible Reading cards for companions. Will not you send for one, dear child?
"It floateth like a banner
hechem, or Nablous, is often called the little Damascus, because of its beauty and situation. It lies in a valley between the two hills Gerizim and Ebal, which, unlike other valleys in the Holy Land, is wooded and well watered. After visiting a potter's house, and seeing him make little clay lamps on his wheel, we leave the dirty streets and by-lanes, and ride out into the country. Passing the so-called Joseph's Tomb, we arrive at the open fields. Getting off our horses, our guide leads us to a sort of pit; climbing down some six feet, we find ourselves over the mouth of a well. Round the opening of this deep hole bored in the earth, the stones are very old and worn, showing marks of the ropes used in days long gone by. The well is now only some thirty-five feet deep, but formerly it must have been nearly double that depth.
The place is strewn with stones, the ruins of some old building. We are told a church was built here by the Crusaders, and the well was in the arched crypt beneath the church.
What a sacred spot this is! Here Abraham first halted after he crossed the Jordan. Here Jacob bought a piece of ground, and dug the well. Here the tide of pilgrims passed to and fro to the great feasts at Jerusalem. Are we not sitting where Jesus sat when He was very tired? Are we not touching the very stones He touched? Are not our eyes resting on the same hills He saw?
"Living water." Our Master's message for the poor woman, who came in the hot sunshine with her pitcher on her head to draw water, was this: "Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again, but whosoever drinketh of the water which I shall give them, shall never thirst." She was weary, sinful, sorrowful, and only living water could satisfy her. And what did the Lord Jesus mean by Living Water? The Holy Spirit. "He that believeth on Me," He said, at another time, "Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." "This spake He of the Spirit."
"I believe in the Holy Ghost," so you often say. Do you really believe in Him? Do you try not to grieve Him? Do you listen to His still small voice, when He says "do this" or "don't do that"?
Some day, before very long perhaps, you will go to the Bishop to be confirmed. Then he will pray over you, "Defend, O Lord, this Thy child with Thy Holy Spirit." Oh, what a beautiful prayer! What a strong defence! How ready the Father is to give His Spirit. Are you ready to receive? May His own loving Spirit lead you forth and guide you all your journey through:
"I heard the voice of Jesus say,
"These stand upon Mount Gerizim to bless."
A steep ride brings us to the top of the mountain which over-shadows of Shechem or Nablous. Glorious is the view: far away to the east we are shown the ford Jabbok, where Jacob wrestled with the Angel, and beyond it the hills of Gilead.
Around us are ruins of a church built before the Crusades, and some little distance further what is said to be the site of the old Samaritan temple. To this sacred spot, once a year, come the small body of Samaritans, now only some 200 in number, to keep their Passover. For seven days they live in tents. Here they kill their lamb and eat it.
We see one pit where the lamb of last year was roasted, and another where bones were burnt. We find a few small pieces of charred bone which we carry away as treasures.
On descending by a most dangerous path we reach a place near the base where the mountain is shaped like a huge armchair. Opposite us is Mount Ebal, and we can easily picture the tribes gathered, six on one side the valley and six on the other, while the Blessings and Curses were read in the ears of all. Indeed, such is the formation of the two mountains that it is said a voice can easily be heard from mountain to mountain.
Our little company gathered close together on this holy ground, and one of our party reads the Blessings promised to the obedient Israelites in the days of old:
"Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed thou shalt be in the
The same gracious Father who promised His Blessings to His own Israel still waits to bless you and me.
"He visiteth the earth and blesses it."
Some people only speak of God's visitations when troubles come, whereas our Father loves to visit that He may bless. He delights to fill our basket and our store. But, remember, it is the willing and obedient still on whom the Blessings abide. Seek to find out His will and do it. Then, in city or field, work or play, lying down or rising up, going out or coming home, you shall be blessed indeed,
"We thank Thee, then, O Father,
Accept the gifts we offer
All good gifts around us
Shiloh, or Seilüm as it is now called, lies in a wide valley with hills to the north, east, and west. In the center of the valley is a curious knoll. This small hill, covered with loose stones and the remains of former dwellings, has a flat top, which gives it the appearance of having at some time been levelled. May not this be the very ground on which stood the sacred tent or Tabernacle? In the plain around on all sides could easily have been pitched the tents of the tribes, each tribe with its standard Reuben away there on the south, Judah on the east towards the sun-rising, with Dan, Asher and Naphtali to the north.
The valley is lonely enough now, the few poor Arab children who follow us are so miserable, one little lad quite blind. The blue sky, the grey hills, the old ruins are a blank to him, and, what troubles us still more, he knows not-how should he know?-of One who came to give sight to the blind, and loves, oh, so tenderly, the afflicted and the sad.
Here it was Samuel ministered. On yonder knoll in the old tent he used to light the lamps and wait upon the old High Priest in his little white dress. Here he slept one night calmly until, amid the awful stillness, he heard the voice calling him:
We read in one place that God makes use not only of great vessels to do his work, but of cups of small measure.
Sometimes we see very little boys leading the praises of God's people in the church choir. We watch some little one as she carries the basket of pudding to a sick child. We say these are true ministering children.
But there are other ministers: The little daughter who rocks the baby's cradle without a grumble, the little son who runs to the shop cheerfully for mother, the child who sews away patiently in play time, or helps the little ones with the home-lessons, ministers.
There is a day coming when One who was often weary, and very often did disagreeable things for others, will Himself say, "Well done. Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these ye did it unto Me." How that glad welcome will ring out for all ministers, yes, for all ministering children; and won't they say then, "Oh, we are so glad we did it, for He is glad, we see it in His face, and He says it too."
"There's not a child so small or weak
"He dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it
reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and
descending on it."
Leaving Shiloh we pass through a well-cultivated valley-the vine is here growing in terraces. These terraces are partly the natural rock, and partly built with loose stones.
The robber's fountain, a wild spot, is left on our left hand; here are caves and rock tombs. The luncheon tent is pitched in a very garden of wild flowers, and forty-five different specimens are added to our collection. At length we reach Bethel-it is a dreary spot. A few stone huts, a high tower, and some scanty olive-trees, are all that remain of Bethel-the house of God. An old cistern presented us with clusters of maiden-hair fern, so fresh and green, the only beautiful thing to be seen amid this bare waste. Stones, stones abound everywhere. Large boulders, any one of which might have formed a step in the dream of the poor out-cast Jacob.
How differently do we rest to-night, in our comfortable tent with a soft pillow under our head, to Jacob with stones for his pillow. Yet the same stars are above us, the same hills round us, the same ground beneath us. It has been beautifully said every child's bed is at the bottom of a ladder such as Jacob saw.
The angels of God are nearer to us than we think.
But you say: I cannot see my Angel; nor could Elisha's servant till his eyes were opened; nor did Jacob till he had his vision. Yet angels were round about them all the while.
What a bright joyous message Jacob's angels brought him:
"I will keep thee in all places whither thou goest."
Is not this a pillow worth going to rest upon to-night, not a hard pillow like a stone, but a nice soft pillow?
"I will keep thee in all places."
A very little girl said once, as she came over a rough road:
"Mother, this reminds me of what my life will be, full of ups and downs."
"In all places," rough places and smooth, His had will lead on.
Perhaps some dear child who reads this is soon leaving home for school life, with its unknown temptations.
"In all places," the angel of His presence will save you and keep you.
"Still through the cloven skies they come,
"The flowers appear on the earth."
Spring time has come. In Palestine the early rains are generally over by the end of March, then the flowers appear.
Yesterday's forty-five specimens are pressed in blotting-paper with numbers of others.
Truly this is a land of flowers. The old forests are all gone, every tree of any size has been cut down for firewood, but flowers remain. It is said from 2000 to 2500 plants may be found in Syria and Palestine, of which some 500 are the same as our British wild flowers. Amongst those we gathered are the marguerite, white and yellow, the cyclamen, the poppy, the tulip, the pheasant's eye, the corn cockle, the mignonette, the pimpernel, the star of Bethlehem, and, chief of all, the glorious scarlet anemone, seen everywhere in large patches, so that it is no wonder the touching name is given to it of, "The Saviour's blood drops."
Curious is it that with such a wealth of flowers the natives seem to have no love for them. Never do I see a flower in the hand or dress of man, woman, or child, nor are any offered to us as in Switzerland, Italy, and other countries.
Flowers, how beautiful are you! Some of you hang your heads or hide away in the crannies of the old walls, while some of you crown the tops of the rocks, or wave to and fro in the sunshine.
Flowers, how sweet smelling are you in this early spring, and most of all high up amid the Lebanon and Mount of Hermon.
Flowers, you died down in autumn. "Mother earth gathered you into her bosom," but now, "Lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone," you appear bright and beautiful in your Easter dress.
Flowers, teach us to live and die; teach us that living truly, dying sweetly, we too shall rise to live again.
Dear children, love the flowers.
Be beautiful in thought, and word, and deed in your quiet nook like the lily. Hide your head from all proud ways like the violet. Be sweet in disposition. Different to others you are sure to be. Unlike brother or sister, for the good God makes not two flowers or two children just alike. Study to show yourself approved of Him. Your character strong, noble, pure, true.
In the spring-time of life grow daily in wisdom, grace, in trust in Christ your Lord, and so make all around you happier for your presence. The when the autumn of your life comes, and you seem to die, you will have a hidden life in Him who said: "I am the Resurrection and the Life."
"On many a ruined shrine and fallen tomb,
The oleander near the water's brink
By cool Siloam's shady rill
Lo, such the child whose early feet
By cool Siloam's shady rill
Dependent on Thy bounteous breath,
"Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem."
We make an early start, for all our party are eager to enter the Holy City. We leave Mizpeh, the watch tower, on our left, pass the sites of Ramah and Gibeon, and come to the hill Scopus, the most northerly spur of the Mount of Olives. As we cross it we have our first view of Jerusalem. This was the spot where the Crusaders, under King Richard, lept from their horses and knelt in prayer. It is, indeed, with strange feelings we gaze on this city of holy memories.
There is Mount Moriah, where the Temple once stood; and beyond it Zion, David's city. Just below us is the Valley of the Kedron, its bed now dry; away on the south is the awful Valley of Hinnom, with Bethlehem in the far distance. To our left rises Olivet, with the Garden of Gethsemane at its base, and on its slope the beautiful new Greek Church, built by the Emperor of Russia.
Jerusalem has already lept its walls, and is rapidly spreading along the Jaffa Road to the north-west. After luncheon in our tent, which is pitched near the Damascus gate, we enter within the walls. We meet a great many members of the Greek Church on their way to a service, for it is a festal day. We notice a stone in the wall much worn which these Christians stop to kiss. It is said to be the spot where our Lord fell on his way to Calvary. It is not easy to believe in all these so-called holy sites in the city, but at least we are within sight of the very hills which witnessed the awful scenes of His agony and death. The streets of Jerusalem are narrow; some are up steps, so no carriages are taken within the walls. Some of the streets are arched, and look very quaint and eastern.
The wish of years is now accomplished, and our feet stand within the gates of Jerusalem.
What must have been the joy of the Holy Child Jesus when He first entered within those walls?
What will it be, dear child, to you or me when we enter within the pearly gates, and walls of jasper in the Heavenly City?
Who are they that shall enter in there? "Who are these, and whence came they," asked one who saw that city in a vision? Those who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb; they, and they only, enter in.
The defiled enter not. The unjust, the liars, the impure, the unbelieving are shut out.
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
"A city richer far than words can tell,
Christ! I would know Thee only by Thy grace,
"The mountain which is on the east side of the city."
Memories of Olivet, oh sacred memories!
As we wake on Palm Sunday morning, with the church bells on Olivet ringing in our ears, we find it almost impossible to believe we are really on this holy mountain.
The mount of David's flight, of Solomon's high place. The mount to which Jesus so often resorted; the mount of the triumphant entry; the mount of the agony and ascension.
We go and stand at our tent door and look forth. There is no mistake; there lies the holy city spread out like a map at our feet, the beautiful city, the city of the Great King.
In the afternoon we ascend the mount to almost the highest point. Oh, what a view is spread before us! What is that glittering to the west? It is, it must be, the Dead Sea; and Pisgah. From these Moses looked forth longingly to the spot on which we stand, and away to goodly Hermon, as we now see it with its snows.
We descend towards Bethany. How the road, as it winds, helps us to picture that scene on the first Palm Sunday. The crowd with Him, meeting the pilgrims from the city just where we now stand. The disciples sent to the village, Bethpage, in the valley below, by a short path, while the Master goes round the winding road under the mount. Then the ass and colt meeting Him at yonder corner. The two crowds mingling, some before, some behind Him, shouting "Hosannah! Hosanna!"--"Save now! Save now!"--as David's Son rides on. At last, there is the sudden burst of the view, Zion's towers, the snow-white temple, then the whole city. Here, where the road turns the corner of the mount and begins to descend, we sit down, open our Bible, and read, "When He was come nigh, even now at the descent of the Mount of Olives.He beheld the city, and wept over it." Yes, it was here, just here, that the King had His only royal triumph, and it was here the King burst into a torrent of weeping.
I like to think that the children joined in the King's progress, that they with their treble voices chanted His praise.
"Young me and maidens, old men and children praise the name of the Lord." So wrote the old Hebrew poet.
Praise. It is happy work for children; and happy does it make our King, the children's King.
You thank Him for what He does for you, for what He gives you--you must praise Him for what He is, and what He is to you.
Think for a moment or two of each person of the Blessed Trinity.
The Father in all His glory and love.
"Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
Now go, and try to praise Him in your life by a cheerful, contented, loving service; serving Him in holiness and truth.
"All glory, laud and honour,
To Thee before Thy Passion
"The Lord Jehovah is the Rock of Ages."
We pass within the gates of the Sacred Mosque Omar. English gold is a key which opens many a gate in the East--only the last few years have Christians been allowed to stand on this ground, so dear to the Moslem. What is this so carefully enclosed? It is the top of Mount Moriah. Turn to your Bible and read in Genesis xxii.2, "Get thee into the land of Moriah." Then pass on some 850 years, and turn to 2 Chron. iii. 1, "Solomon began to build the house of the Lord in Mount Moriah." The scene of Abraham's offering, the threshing-floor of Ornan, the site of the great Temple--such is the spot on which we stand.
The dome of the rock, or Mosque of Omar, is a magnificent building of marble and alabaster; the windows are of beautiful glass, the walls a mass of colour; but all else forgotten, beside that which is the centre of the whole. A huge rock juts up and nearly fills the space beneath the dome--it is 57 feet long by 43 feet wide--this rock is hollow, and we enter its cave by a winding stair.
What is the Rock? With very little doubt it is the place where Ornan was threshing wheat (1 Chron. xxi. 20.) It is the site of the altar of sacrifice, and through the hole (some 2 feet across), which pierces it flowed the blood of all the sacrifices offered daily by the priests. This hole passed through the floor of the cave, but now it is filled up. Probably that was an outlet in the valley of the Kedron.
That rock in the old Temple Court, how it tells of one concerning whom it is written, "the Lord Jehovah is the Rock of Ages."
There is a shelter, a hiding place, in that cave within the Rock.
"It is Christ in the child which makes it speak the truth; Christ in the child which makes it shrink from whatever it has been told is wrong. It is Christ in the young lad which fills him with lofty desires; hopes of bettering the world around him; hopes of training his soul to be all that it can be, and of putting forth all his powers in the service of Christ." (Charles Kingsley)
Take Christ the, dear child, as your Rock on which to build up a noble, honourable life. Flee to Him in every difficulty. Trust Him in every perplexity. From Christ, believe me, comes all that is good in man or angel. As you live in His strength, as you grow in His likeness, purity, self-control, experience, knowledge, love, charity, will all become yours, and, then humility, too, will be yours, and you will say, "The good which I do, I do not, but Christ Who dwelleth in me."
"Rock of Ages cleft for me,
Thou, O Christ, art all I want,
"Our daughters may be as corner-stones, hewn."
What vast stones there are in the wall of the old Temple enclosure! Here is one more than 37 feet long.
Some few years ago explorers dug down deep below the present wall, and strange have been the secrets thus revealed. At the south-east corner of the city it is found that the wall must formerly have risen to a height of no less than 156 feet from its foundation. The stones show that they were hewn and cut with the greatest care and skill. On one stone there are still to be seen painted marks of the Syrian workmen (similar marks having been found on the tomb of a King of Sidon, 600 B.C.). The paint of these numerals is still fresh, and has run upwards, revealing that the stone was moved after the workmen had painted on it their marks, thus: = 20 --5.20. What is, however, more remarkable than all, close to the corner-stone, or foundation-stone, which is a binding stone facing south and east, a hole 3 feet across and 1 foot deep was discovered in the rock, and in it was found a pot containing a substance which is thought to be oil.
Here then, no doubt, is the very jar used by Solomon on the day of consecration, when he laid "a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure foundation" (Isa. xxvi. 16).
"Our daughters may be as corner-stones, hewn."
That corner-stone in the city wall for over 2000 years has bound that wall together.
What are you doing, dear child, in the home to bind? Are you by love knitting together the others around you?
By little acts of kindness, and little deeds of love, are you making your life one with that of those dear to you? so that it is said of you: "I don't know how we should get on at home without-----." Then, are you like that corner-stone, cut, hewn, polished, all the rough corners and angles sawn away?
A gentle woman is one with gentle ways, easy, loving, kindly manners. True love is not rude or unmannerly, but considerate, thoughtful of others. A polished life. We cannot get this out of any book of genteel behaviour. We must learn it from One who was Himself meek and lowly. We must learn it by taking up His yoke, and following His steps.
He is called "the foundation stone," and daughters who would be polished corner-stones must become like Him."
"Many a blow and biting sculpture
Christ is made the sure Foundation,
"Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, they shall prosper that love thee."
On Good Friday afternoon we pass without the walls of the city to visit the Jews' Wailing Place, which is in the valley between Mount Zion and Mount Moriah. This particular part of the wall is very old, and the stones are very large.
What a crowd is here! Jewish Rabbis with their long beards, Jewish maidens in their bright dresses, men with fur round their caps and robes. Strange is the scene, as, with a low hum, and bodies swayed to and fro, all join in a solemn Litany. This prayer, which is sung in a sort of monotone, is taken up line by line, first by a Rabbi, and then by the congregation. The words are said to be as old as the days of the Babylonian captivity; as we hear them to-day from this crowd of some two hundred wailers their sound is solemn and sad in the extreme. Some show evidence of real grief, for we see tears pouring down their cheeks as they breathe their petitions into the very crevices between those stones, which once formed a part of the glorious city of their father David.
Some of the pilgrims place verses in Hebrew in the chinks of the wall, believing (so we are told) that an angel will carry them away as a remembrance to the throne of God.
How our hearts ache for these children of Judah. We think of that first awful Good Friday, when the cry rang again and again through the air, "Crucify Him--Crucify Him," "His blood be on us and on our children." Awful has been the punishment. Truly God's peculiar nation is now
"Scattered, cast out, oppressed, forlorn--
Yet how dear to the Father's heart are these children of faithful Abraham! How He longs for them "to look on Him whom they pierced!" How He yearns for them to know their own Messiah!
Will not you, dear child, learn to love the Jew for your Saviour's sake? Will you not "pray for the peace of Jerusalem," and receive the blessing promised to those who love its poor, forsaken, cast out children? Before you lie down in bed to-night say, on behalf of these so dear to the Great Heart of love:
"Oh Lord, save Thy people,
Never despise, never look down upon, never be unkind to a Jew, for to a Jew you and I owe all our true happiness, in time in eternity.
LITANY OF THE WAILING
"For the palace that lies desolate,
For the palace that is destroyed,
For the walls that are overthrown,
For our majesty that is departed,
For our great men who lie dead,
For the precious stones that are burned,
For the priests who have stumbled,
For our kings who have despised Him,
We pray Thee have mercy on us,
Haste, haste, Redeemer of Zion,
May the beauty and majesty surround Zion!
May peace and joy abide with Zion!
* (R) Response
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