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
"Those holy fields,
* [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.]
XLIV. PILGRIMS AT THE RIVER.
"Then cometh Jesus from Galilee unto Jordan, to be baptized."--St. Matt. iii. 13.
As we ride down from Jerusalem to Jericho we pass companies of pilgrims, poor Russian peasants, on their journey to the sacred river. At length we reach the banks of the Jordan (the "Descender," as the name means). The first sight of this familiar stream, only some 65 feet broad, disappoints us. It is full now, after heavy rains--swift flowing and turbid, coffee-coloured; yet, is there no beauty after all? The thick tangle wood of tamarisk, poplars, and willows forms a welcome shade, and the mountains of Moab make a beautiful landscape beyond.
Strange is the scene as we arrive. A priest of the Greek Church, in his rich vestments, is performing a service, and a small company of pilgrims are worshipping with him. Presently all are robed in white garments, and step down the steep bank into the river to bathe in the waters. We are told these white robes are kept by the bathers till they die, that they may be buried in them.
Simple-hearted people these Russian peasants seem to be. On their faces is the expression of joy, thankfulness, and peace. This journey has, no doubt, been the thought and desire of years; now it will be looked back upon as the consecration of a life.
Here, where the Master stood to be anointed with the Holy Ghost, have these Christians bathed in water hallowed by memories of Him.
Baptism--my baptism--What does it mean for me? Does it not tell me of a consecration, and a life?
A consecration, a setting apart for Christ to be holy, pure, true: A life, new, strong, brave--a life of duty, service, kinship.
My baptism! Does it not tell me of a Power on my side, a power to overcome? A spirit of liberty--a spirit of joy? A spirit of holy peace in me? A spirit to do and to bear?
I look across the plain and see the Mountain of the Temptation. I gaze again at the River, and think of those words: "Then was Jesus led . . . to be tempted"--from baptism to His conflict. I know it must be the same still. Baptism tells of the battle-field; but it tells of the soldier's armour and of the soldier's triumph.
"O Jesus I have promised
XLV. THE DEAD SEA.
"Have salt in yourselves."--St. Mark ix. 50.
The Dead Sea is never so called in Holy Scripture; it is known as the Salt Sea, or the Sea of the Plain. The Arabs of to-day have named it "The Sea of Lot." From our river encampment a ride of some two and a half hours brings us to its shores.
Before us is the most remarkable inland lake in the world, it is no less than 1290 feet below the level of the sea; into it pours the river Jordan to the amount of six million tons a day, yet there is no outlet at the other end. Was Solomon thinking of this sea when he says: "All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full?"
The depth varies in a curious way, at the northern end it is from 1300 to 1000 feet deep, while at the southern end it is but a few feet deep. The sea is some forty miles long by eight and a half miles broad, the shores are lined with a white crust of salt; on the beach are numberless whitened trunks and branches of trees, carried down by the current of the Jordan.
Wild and desolate is the scene, yet there is a beauty in the landscape, the hills of Moab slope down to the water's edge on the east, and the hills of Judea on the west, while the waters glisten and sparkle in the sunshine. Some of our party bathe in the brackish waters, but they hardly seem to find it a pleasant experience--one taste of the brine is enough for a lifetime. We shall understand this if we remember that every gallon of this water contains one pound of pure salt.
There is very little vegetation near the sea, and that little is stunted and barren looking. In the waters no ordinary fish can live, but there may be some lower forms of animal life.
We are told by the old Jewish writers that the salt of this Sea of the Plain was used in great quantities for the Temple sacrifices. It much more readily lost its saltness than other sea salt. When this was the case, it was used to sprinkle the pavement and steps of the Temple in slippery weather. Did not our Lord refer to this when He said: "If the salt have lost its savour . . .it is good for nothing . . . but to be trodden under foot of men." "Have salt in yourselves." That is, have something more than mere profession--the name of Christian. Be self-denying, be peaceable.
"My baptism" will be of no use to me unless I live up to its profession, which is "To follow the example of our Saviour Christ and to be made like unto Him."
"The children of the kingdom," if they do not follow the King, will be cast aside like the Dead Sea salt.
"O Jesus Thou has promised
XLVI. THE CITY OF PALMS.
"Jericho, the city of palm trees."--2 Chron. xxviii. 15.
The country between the Dead Sea and El Riha, the modern Jericho, is barren and uninteresting. We pass high mounds of mud, and the ground is wet and slimy. In about two and a half hours we reach the site of "the City of Palms." It seems impossible that this was once a city, skirted by a forest, three miles broad and eight miles long. How glorious must it have been then, watered with the stream from the fountain of Elisha, and the brook Cherith.
The Dead Sea still casts up the relics of bygone days, trunks of palm trees preserved by the salt of that wonderful lake.
The neighbouring hills tell the story of the fruitful past. The terraces for the vine still remain, with the rock-hewn cisterns as perfect as when first formed, lined with cement, with neat channels by which the water could be turned on to the root of each plant in turn.
We have a very curious experience before we go to rest.
A fire of brambles is lit outside our tents, and a crowd of Bedouin gather round; at length the men, taking hands, form in a half circle and begin a strange dance, the Sheikh of the village swaying to and fro, and waving a sword. The women then perform in the same way, and lastly, the children. It is a weird sight; the lurid light of the fire, the dancing figures, the flashing sword, and a crowd standing around, some in rags, some clad in sheep-skins, a few in bright but tattered abbas. And all the while, the Passover moon looks down as it has looked on many and many a wondrous scene on this spot in the centuries that are gone.
Those faces can never fade from our minds, of a people without a hope beyond the grave, living miserable degraded lives, with no one to tell them of Him who at the gate of Jericho gave sight to Bartimeus the beggar. The City of Palms! Let us carry away with us, not a palm-branch, for not a single palm-tree remains, but one lesson for ourselves.
"Upright as a palm," was a proverb of old. How we like to be able to say of this or that friend, "I know I can trust him, he is always so straightforward and so true." Shall others be able to say this of you and me? Let us aim to be upright, able "to look the whole world in the face," no deception about us.
"Say 'I will,' or 'I won't,' and then do it or refrain from it, without waiting any more. This is especially needful in that form of bravery called truthfulness. You and I ought to be like well-grown trees--straight up and down wood, with no crooks in the grain. Every kind of 'humbug' is like a warp in the timber--it lessens our use in the world and grows worse and worse as time goes on." [Francis Burdett Coutis] Our Father in Heaven loves uprightness. "The upright are His delight," to them especially is the promise--
"No good thing will He withhold."
"Let the road be rough and dreary
"Simple rule and safest guiding,
"Some will hate thee, some will love thee
"Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus."--St. John xi. 5.
We break up our camp near the Fountain of Elisha at Jericho, and with a Bedouin Sheikh, on a fine Arab horse to lead us, we take the road, just made by the fellaheen or village peasants, up to Jerusalem. We pass on our right the beautiful gorge down which the brook Cherith flows, where the prophet was fed by the ravens. We stay for a little while at the so-called "Khan of the good Samaritan," and towards the midday reach Bethany. The ancient name Bethany, the house of dates, is no longer suitable. No date palm is to be seen; the myrtle groves, the pines are all gone, and the few figs, almonds and olives left are small and stunted.
Bethany is not called El Azarieh from Lazarus whose grave is still shown near the village.
It is a small and untidy looking place; the houses, which are built of the grey stones from the hill-side, look at a distance as if they grew out of the ground, and were formed of the natural rock.
How our King loved Bethany, did He not? How he used to retire here from the noise and bustle of the city. Every spot here is sacred to the Children of the King.
The Home at Bethany seems the only home that the Saviour made His own towards the end of His life, and there He was always welcome.
"He loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus." Yet how different was each in character!
So is it still: He loves us, each one, yet differently, according to our character.
That lad who finds it so hard to sit still, who does not care much for reading or thinking, but who is fond of games and every manly sport, who would scorn to tell a lie, and has a sort of secret feeling that somehow or other to be religious means to be a little soft--Jesus loves him, and is very fully the Elder Brother in His thoughts about him.
That dear girl who is impetuous and ready to do anything out of love to Him one day, and then the next hardly remembers even to say her morning prayer. Who would run a mile for that sick man, and then forget all about him for weeks to come. She is very dear to Jesus, and He watches her so carefully.
That one, like Mary, who loves to read and pray, and to worship in His house, but is very unpractical, and can hardly put a stitch to a stocking, or mend a hole in a glove--He loves her and is very, very patient.
Do not think because you are not like so-and-so He cannot love you. He loves you just as you are, with that special individuality of character.
"Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus," and He loves all boys and girls, and of each one it may be written, "Jesus loveth --- and --- and ---." Remember that great love. Strive to cure your faults. Try to make your character what He intends it to be, try to do your work well. Then He will be very pleased, and will "rest in His love."
"Be good, sweet maid, and let who will be clever,
"There came a leper . . . and Jesus, moved with compassion, . . . touched him."--St. Mark i. 41-42.
The cry is in our ears, "Signor, Signor (Sir, Sir), pity, pity." Who cries out thus piteously? Lepers.
Here they are, seated by the wayside, close to the Garden of Gethsemane. Some come close to our horses as we ride up the steep path near the city wall. Very, very terrible do they look--here one without an arm, another without a leg, and some with part of the face already eaten away. Again and again the cry sounds, "Pity, pity," as they shake a small tin can, in which they hope to receive a few coins.
Near the Jaffa Gate a home is provided to which any lepers can go and be well cared for; but alas! many of them prefer the miserable life of begging from passers by.
Our hearts feel very sad as we think of these wretched sufferers. How we long to tell them of Him whom they know not, Jesus Christ, their King as well as ours.
When the Lord Jesus was on earth He cared even for the lepers. With a heart of compassion He heard their cry, "Unclean, unclean." He saw them afar off, and He came near them, touched them, and healed them. And He is the same still; there is not one, however suffering, or wretched--not one, however unloveable, and even loathsome, but He cares for that one. Have we at all learnt of Jesus to love the outcast ones? It is easy to love those who love us. It is easy to love kind, nice, pleasant people; but some it is hard, very hard, to care for.
A child's love is one of the most precious gifts; use that gift for your King. There are some people who can be reached by a child's love, who steel their hearts against all other love.
Our Public School Missions are doing something to reach the outcast. Eton, Harrow, Winchester, all our great schools, are thus helping to lift up the poor and ignorant. When you are older, what more blessed work could you do than to go in Christ's name to those who know Him not, and to bring the message of His sympathy, and the touch of a hand like His own, to those afar off from Him.
"Truly He cannot, after such assurance.
"Never a sigh of passion or of pity,
"Then though our foul and limitless transgression
Proofread by LNL, Nov. 2023
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