IN THE HOLY
Mount Olivet by moonlightThe wall of JerusalemIts principal gatesThe Dung-gate[2 Chron. xxix. 16]The Golden-gateValleys of Jehoshaphat, Hinnom, and GihonNatural strength of the ancient cityCircle of mountains, inner and outer [Ps. cxxv. a]Principal quartersRigid distinctionsProbable number of inhabitantsThe Jews in Jerusalem [Ps. cii. 14]Jewish synagogues [Ps. cxxxvii.) Order of worship [Luke iv. 16-30]Nationalities [Acts vi. 9]The sparrow and the swallow [Ps. Ixxxiv]Bishop GobatA Sabbath on Mount ZionAn evening in the bishop's house [Ps. Ixxii. 16]The Prussian deaconessesEstimate of Bishop Gobat's laboursEvangelical agencies for PalestineActivity of the Jesuits Challenge by Dr. Barclay to Monsignor Capel Tables d'hoteScenes of proselytism How the inhabitants are supportedImpoverished look of the cityThe glory departed [Jer. xxvi. 18: Micah iii. 12]Strange police regulation: Lanterns by night News of robbery outside the wallsMiserable look of the encampment and of the victimsThe Jews' Waiting-place [Luke xiii. 35]Scene on the Passover week [Lam. ii. i; iv. ijRabbi AkibaLight from the bosom of darkness [Isa. xxxvii. 31; Rom. xi. ij, 23}
FROM the upper room of our little inn, in which we were
accustomed to take our quiet meals, we looked directly out on Mount Olivet
dotted with its olive trees, and could easily trace the various paths across or
around the mountain to Bethany. We remember that on the evening of our arrival,
when the moon was out in the cloudless sky, we ascended by an outside stair to
the flat roof over the upper chamber, and looked down upon the silent city,
with its white domes and tall, lance-like minarets, its tall cypresses and
softened ruins, while Olivet gradually concentrated our notice with a
fascination that we could not resist. We pictured to ourselves Him who had so
often gone out to it, and continued all night in prayer to God, retiring into
one of those quiet recesses, or bending beneath one of those shady olive trees;
and we felt how willingly, had he yet been there, we could have gone out and
"ministered unto him," and kissed his blessed feet. Everything was yet subdued
and undefined to us in the witchery of the moonlight, and we knew how very much
of the charm would be broken when, on the morrow, we looked out upon the modern
city in broad daylight. But still, no harsh reality could take from us the
satisfaction of knowing that within a circle of less than one and a half miles
from the spot on which we were then standing, the most important events in the
history of our race had occurred - events whose moral influences, it was
probable, reached to the extremest point of the intelligent universe; that here
had been the most frequent meeting place between earth and heaven and therefor
we could sympathise to the full with those words of Arnold, and even go beyond
them; "Of earthly sights, Rome ranks as third, Athens and Jerusalem are the
other two: the three people of god's election - two for things temporal, and
one for things eternal."
We shall keep within the gates of the city in our present chapter, and endeavour to convey to our readers our impressions of the aspect and condition of the Jerusalem of our own times, as we so recently saw it; reserving for another chapter our notices of modern excavations, and of those many objects of antiquarian interest, some of which are to be found within the city itself, and more of which immediately rise before us when we pass beyond its walls.
Every one is aware that modern Jerusalem is surrounded by a wall, varying in height at different places from twenty-five to fifty feet, according to the natural elevation or depression of the ground, and having towers, battlements and loopholes at regular intervals, with gates that are constantly guarded, and regularly closed at sunset. The wall is so broad on the top in many places that it is easy to stand or walk on it, as we have sometimes done, without danger or giddiness. Though it is not of sufficient strength to stand the shock of modern artillery, but would be shattered and demolished in a few hours by a well-directed fire from the sides of Olivet or the rising ground of Scopus, it is sufficient for guarding the city from the Bedouin robber, the principal enemy whom the inhabitants, in common circumstances, have cause to fear.
There are four gates, through which there is a constant thoroughfare, and which look, with considerable exactness, towards the cardinal points. Two of these are - the Jaffa-gate on the west, and the Damascus-gate on the north, which receive their names from the cities to which the roads that start from them conduct. The other two are St. Stephen's-gate on the east - so named from a tradition that the first Christian martyr suffered in its neighbourhood; and the gate of Zion on the south, because it stands on a part of that eminence. There are other gates, however, which still continue in partial use, such as the Dung-gate, through whose comparatively narrow entrance we recollect having found our way from outside the wall to the Jews' Wailing-place. The offal and rubbish of the city are still carried out by this gate, and tumbled into a vast heap, which finds its way down into the valley of the Kidron, far beneath ; so that the old practice remains, which we can trace back to the times of Hezekiah, when, on occasion of his cleansing the Temple from its filth, its idolatrous symbols, and its idols, these were brought forth by the same gate, and hurled down, it is probable, from the same point, to mingle with " the offscourings of all things."
The wall, though old according to our Western notions of age, is not of extraordinary antiquity, having been built by Saladin in the sixteenth century. But when one examines it in detail and with some attention, and observes its patched look in many parts, and the enormous stones which here and there diversify the structure - some of them bearing the certain marks of a much earlier masonry, and evidently not in their original places - it is impossible to doubt that the material of Nehemiah's wall, and even of older defences, mingles with those existing walls and towers. There is one vast marble stone laid transversely, and protruding from that portion of the wall immediately above the now built up " Golden-gate," in respect to which the Mohammedans have the grotesque prediction that their prophet is to sit on it on the day of judgment, when the world is gathered for its last great ordeal in the valley of Jehoshaphat beneath.
There are many reasons for believing that the present wall, in by far the larger part of its circuit, follows in the line of older defences. In many places it stands as near to the precipitous edge of the encircling valleys as the nature of the ground will admit; and Lieutenant Van de Velde was able to trace, in some parts, the groove in the rock from which the first tier of stones had been partially dislodged by the plough of Terentius Rufus, and in which they had been replaced by later builders. But the ruins of houses still occasionally discovered make it evident that the earlier wall had extended considerably further towards the north-west; while it is certain that Ophel, a part of Mount Moriah, and the southern extremity of Zion, both of which now stand outside the wall, formed part of the city down beyond the latest period of Biblical history.
Except in its northern direction, where it is connected by a level tract with the rising ground beyond it, Jerusalem is encompassed by three valleys or gorges, in some places of extraordinary depth: that of Jehoshaphat on the east, at the bottom of which is the bed of the Kidron, now only known as a winter torrent, carrying down the refuse of the city into the Dead Sea; that of Hinnom on the south, intersecting the valley of Jehoshaphat at its deepest point, beneath the shadow of the village of Siloam which hangs like an eagle's nest on the rock above; and that of Gihon on the west, commencing near the Jaffa-gate, and gradually merging and deepening into that of Hinnom. There are points on the side of those dark ravines from which it makes one giddy to look down even now: what must have been the effect when the descent was more immediate and terribly precipitous, and before those valleys had gathered into them the accumulated debris of two millenniums? It is recorded that at that point, on the north of the city, where there is no natural ravine, the defences had been made so strong by art, as, with a brave and united people behind them, to be nearly impregnable. Even proud Sennacherib, it is evident, was secretly reluctant to measure the strength of his Assyrian host against such munitions. What an inspiriting sight must it have been to a patriotic Hebrew in Jerusalem's palmy days, when "walking about Zion, and going round about her," he considered her palaces and marked well her bulwarks! And when we think of this city in the centre of Judah, far up in her mountain region, away from sea-ports, guarded by lofty walls, encircled by deep ravines, and her besiegers having no more formidable instruments and engines of assault than the battering-ram and the catapult, we can understand how she should so often have been able to defy and to weary out some of the mightiest forces of the Old World; and how, when even Rome sent forth against her all the might of her imperial strength, the experience of her astonishing power of resistance, then increased in many places by a triple wall, should have drawn from Titus the acknowledgment that he could never have succeeded in conquering a city so defended, except by the supernatural help of the gods!
Beyond these gorges again, but quite near, there is a circle of hills, not rising in frowning eminences and lofty peaks, and appearing to overtop and hem in the ancient city, but rather seeming to form a respectful guard around a monarch. That hill on the north rising in quiet beauty is Scopus, from which Titus obtained his first admiring view of Jerusalem. Who can fail to recognize in the triple-topped, dark-robed eminence on the east the Mount of Olives? Those wilder cliffs which bound the city on the south and west are the Hill of Evil Counsel and the ridge of Wady Beit Hanina. At a further distance the eye can trace a second and much bolder mountain circle, in which portions of the hill country of Judah and some of the nearest summits of Samaria come in to fill up the picture, making you see how grandly appropriate is that comparison in the psalm : "As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people from henceforth even for ever."
Modern Jerusalem is divided into four principal quarters: the Mohammedan, the Jewish, the Greek, and the Latin; the names of the quarters indicating that the division is regulated by the creed or religion of the different dwellers in the city. Unquestionably there is no other spot on the earth on which antagonist faiths are so crowded upon each other and yet are separated by so sharp a division. Go into one part of the city, and you will hear the muezzin-cry ringing out from some minaret, calling the Moslem to prayer. Pass into another, and you will meet with rosaries, and crucifixes, images of the Virgin, and rude pictures of the Madonna and her Child. Wander next to that eastern portion of Mount Zion which is inclosed within the city walls, and which looks over upon Moriah, and you will find it crowded with synagogues, and the white-bearded Hebrew with those indelible typical features, cherishing an ancient worship which has lingered around the same spot for three thousand years, and which refuses to amalgamate with any other. The consequence is, that there are three distinct sacred days observed in the different quarters of Jerusalem every week - the Mohammedan Sabbath on Friday, the Jewish on Saturday, and the Christian on the first day of the week. The manner of life of these different classes of religionists, as well as their mutual animosities, have rendered these local separations expedient in Jerusalem, if anywhere. We believe that the division is, on the whole, very rigidly observed; and it has even been affirmed, though probably with a considerable touch of satire, that the very dogs of the various quarters are jealous against the intrusion of strange dogs from any of the other quarters, and resent it after their pwn dog fashion.
The population of modern Jerusalem has been very differently estimated - and no doubt it increases by some thousands at the season of the annual religious feasts - but 18,000 appears to be the most probable average population; and while the Mohammedans are the masters, the Jews form the decided majority, being, it is likely, not far short of 8000. They come in a constant stream from every part of the world, many of them on pilgrimages, by which they hope to acquire a large fund of merit, and then return again to their native country; the greater number that they may die in the city of their fathers, and obtain the most cherished wish of their heart by being buried on Mount Olivet; and it is remarkable that they cling with a strange preference to that part of the city which is nearest the site of their ancient Temple, as if they still "took pleasure in its stones, and its very dust were dear to them." They are fond of inscribing touching passages from the Old Testament upon the most conspicuous places in their synagogues, such as that in the Hundred and Thirty-seventh Psalm: " By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof......If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do*not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy." The Jerusalem synagogues, however, are not adorned like many of those in our European capitals, such as we have seen at Leghorn and Frankfort, probably in order to avoid tempting the cupidity of unscrupulous Moslem rulers. It is indeed remarkable in how many ways the Jews keep hold of their country as with a trembling hand, and are reluctant to let go the traces and the records of a glorious past. At a later period we visited with a learned Jew remote mountain villages in Palestine, far out of the common track of travellers, which contained the tombs of old rabbins and learned men, some of them going back even beyond the Christian era, and we found that lamps were kept burning before those tombs night and day. What an amazing tenacity of life there is alike in the people and their faith!
We visited several of their synagogues, and had brief conversations with some of their chief men; and three things particularly struck us as shedding incidental light upon the Scriptures. Thus, it was curious to notice the close resemblance between the order of religious service in those Jerusalem synagogues in our own days, and that which is described in Luke's Gospel as having been observed in the synagogue at Nazareth on that memorable occasion when our Lord was invited to become the teacher. The correspondence was, in fact, complete at every point, as if the thing had remained stereotyped down through all the eighteen centuries. A roll of one of the books of the Old Testament was carried by a servant from a recess in the wall and put into the hands of the president or reader, who was elevated on a platform in the centre of the synagogue. While the Scripture for the day was being recited, both the reader himself and all the congregation stood up; but at the close of the reading all the people took their seats, and the reader, seated also, proceeded with his mingled exposition and exhortation.
It was scarcely less interesting to observe that the attendance of the Jews on the different synagogues was regulated by the countries to which they owed their birth. Jews from the coasts of Africa and from the south of Europe usually frequented one synagogue; German and Polish Jews were to be found in another; and so it was with other nationalities. But when we turn to the narrative in the Acts of the Apostles we find the same state of things existing in Jerusalem at the beginning of Christianity. Among those who disputed with the youthful Stephen, when "his face shown like the face of an angel," were some from the synagogue of the Libertines - that is, freedmen from Rome and other parts of Italy; some from the synagogue of the Cyrenians and Alexandrians - that is, Jews from Northern Africa; and others from the synagogue of Cilicia and the neighbouring provinces - that is, Asiatic Jews.
We confess to having been even a good deal impressed by noticing that the sparrow and the swallow had free ingress into the synagogues, and that they were allowed to build their nests in convenient nooks in those sacred houses. We could hear their busy twittering during every lull in the service. No doubt, the respect for birds which prevails all over the East may so far account for this; but probably the chief explanation is to be found in those words of the psalm, which have given those creatures a kind of right of sanctuary in the synagogue: "Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine own altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God."
But while false religions and greatly corrupted forms of the true sadly predominate in modern Jerusalem, there is even there, in the birth-place of Christianity, a Christian worship with much of the simplicity and life of primitive times. To us it was indeed a privilege and a joy, on the only Sabbath that we spent in Jerusalem, literally to ascend Mount Zion, and to worship twice in the church of the excellent Bishop Gobat. His beautiful and spacious place of worship stands on the very crest of the Hill of Zion, almost over against the dark and massive ancient structure known as the Tower of David. We confess to our having experienced emotions of special sacredness when we entered Zion's gates and celebrated the Lord's Day, which is the memorial of our Lord's resurrection, not very far from the spot where he had risen from the dead. The form of worship was so simple that it could not have offended even the most rigid Presbyterian : the preaching was admirably pronounced on the grand cardinal truths of our religion; it abounded, in fact, in those very truths which Peter had proclaimed in the neighbouring upper room on the first Pentecost after the Ascension. That was a Sabbath so solemn in its experiences, and so invigorating to faith, that we could almost wish to remember it in heaven. And yet the enjoyment was only some degrees less when we were called to spend a later evening of the same week in Christian exercises and intercourse with the good bishop and his fellow labourers in Christian work for Jerusalem and Palestine. We were taken by surprise when, with genial kindness and liberality, the venerable man put the Bible into our hands, and invited us to conduct the religious services. The Psalms of David were sung on David's own chosen mountain; the Scriptures were read; earnest prayers were offered. We had heard of a Sabbath school containing more than eighty scholars, many of them the children of Jews, which was held under that very roof; and so we sang in hope those words of the great missionary psalm: " There shall be an handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon : and they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth." Those men around us needed much to be encouraged and sustained by prayer, for they were working in a singularly hard and beaten soil, among a people, that were "twice dead, plucked up by the roots."
Few Christian workers in Jerusalem more interested us than the Prussian deaconesses from the neighbouring hospital and school outside the gates, who were so active in ministering to the distressed, and in training the young to habits of industry and in the knowledge of religion. The lady superior of the institution was of the bishop's party; and she deeply impressed us by the evidence which her conversation gave of calm energy, shrewd practical wisdom, and lofty devotedness. Indeed, whenever we met with these admirable women in the sea-board cities of Northern Africa and of Western Asia, as in Alexandria and Smyrna, the conviction deepened in our mind that they were doing a great though comparatively noiseless work; hiding the little leaven in the meal, which was to help much in leavening the whole lump.
Bishop Gobat's labours, though not without good fruit in Jerusalem, extend over Palestine - at least as far north as Nazareth, where his son-in-law, Mr. Zeller, is the centre of an effective Christian agency; and the eighteen schools which he has planted in its towns and villages make his influence felt and his name honoured all over the ancient land. These Protestant schools stimulate even the most supine; in proof of which we recollect the bishop's statement, that wherever he established a school two others were not long in springing up, the one erected by the Roman Catholics, and the other by the Mohammedans - a clear enough indication that these antagonist communities dread the school as the very right arm of Protestantism. Indeed, were we asked to specify the principal agencies that are acting with appreciable influence on those Bible lands, and promising to be the means of their gradual regeneration, we should name those which are conducted by Bishop Gobat from his Jerusalem centre, and those which are managed by the excellent staff of American missionaries in Beyrout, who have already extended their stations as far as Tyre and Sidon, and are operating with such persevering energy upon the various branches of the Eastern Churches that spread themselves everywhere over the slopes of Lebanon. These, along with those Syrian schools planted by that devoted woman, the late Mrs. Bowen Thomson, the schools of the Saleeby brothers, and the quiet labours of a few medical missionaries and some isolated evangelists specially sent out from England to gather in " the dispersed of Israel," make up the sum of evangelistic forces that are working to bring back this native land of the gospel to its earlier and better faith.
Great additional value is to be attached to the labours of Bishop Gobat and his assistants in Jerusalem, on account of the good influence which they exert over European and American visitors to the East. These are increasing in number every year; and a ministry such as that which is maintained in the bishop's church cannot fail to be widely effective, both in the form of attraction and of restraint. This was never more needed than it is now in Jerusalem, not only because of the confessedly deteriorating influence of travel upon the religious life, but also because Jesuitism is most active there in seeking to draw away ill-informed and unwary Protestants from the faith. A certain "Monsignor," whose portrait has been given with an almost cruel accuracy of appreciation by Mr. Disraeli in his "Lothair," and who was leading about his most brilliant prize and pervert everywhere when we were in Jerusalem, was spreading his nets and using his wiles in every direction. In a new Latin church, which had just been completed, in the "Via Dolorosa," he was exercising his oratory in plausible addresses, in which all the worst points of Popery were cast into the shade, and the differences between the Roman Catholic and the Protestant communions so toned down as to make the passage from the one to the other seem easy. And at tables de hote there was the same ceaseless proselytism constantly played off upon persons, many of whom, it is probable, had never given five minutes of serious thought to the mighty questions which produced the Reformation, and some of whom were as easily caught in the Jesuit's silken nets as the fly in the web of the spider. As it was impossible to storm the propagandist in his hotel, Dr. Barclay, the learned missionary, challenged him, in a very courteous epistle, to a public debate on the chief points of controversy with the Protestants. We promised to remain a week in Jerusalem, and share in the discussion. But the table de hote was a much safer and more congenial field than the open platform; and the challenge was declined. We shall meet with this personage again.
The many-coloured population of modern Jerusalem, with its many antagonist faiths, is far from sufficient to occupy the space which is inclosed within its walls. The impression which our every survey of it left upon our mind was that of a shrivelled old man, who had long ago seen better days, but who had somehow shrunken grievously within his dress. Its streets are in many places arcaded and gloomy, so narrow that it is with some difficulty that two loaded camels can pass each other, and rough almost as a mountain-path; and its houses with so few windows fronting to the street, that they unpleasantly remind you of a prison. There are no manufactures in Jerusalem, unless we dignify with this name the carving of beads, crosses, and shells, and the making of staves, paper-cutters, pin-cushions, and boxes from the wood of the olive or the terebinth brought from Olivet or the Jordan, or from some old gnarled vine-stock found in some of the gardens at Bethany, and which are bought in great numbers by visitors and pilgrims. These were all made in public view; and it was curious to notice how much in the primitive artizanship of the East the naked feet, and especially the toes, helped the hands, and in their own slow way did the work of more than one of our Western instruments.
We often found difficulty in understanding how it was possible for even those 18,000 inhabitants to find sustenance. But the greater number of the Jews are subsidized by their richer brethren in other lands. The various convents, though often plundered, are rich still, and circulate money; and the pilgrim weeks are Jerusalem's harvest for the year. You look in vain for streets crowded with a busy population. Often you will meet with only one passenger, but probably that one man will be a picture. Perhaps he is an Armenian with lofty bearing, in garments of fine cloth or rich silk; or a common Arab in his simple shirt of blue cotton; or a wild Bedouin with dark, shaggy locks and sheep-skin coat. Give him a wide berth to move in, for in that coat and woolly burnouse he " feeda a colony." There are other eyes upon him than yours. He has been seeking to exchange English gold or "napoleons" in one of those shops, and suspicion is up that he has been concerned in the last robbery down towards the Jordan.
The same impression is produced by a general glance at the modern city from the flat roof of the bishop's house, which stands on one of the most elevated positions in Jerusalem. We cannot remember to have seen a single new house in course of erection. There were heaps of ruins in many places. It was not unusual for the Arab to pitch his tent on bare places within the walls, just as gipsies do on one of our own commons. Several wide spaces were overgrown with rank weeds, or made impassable by tangled thickets of the enormous cactus. We saw a ploughed field with brairded corn sprouting on it, on Mount Zion. The words of Micah, which received their first fulfilment in the days of Nebuchadnezzar, lay spread out accomplished before our eyes: "Therefore shall Zion for your sake be ploughed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of the forest." How different from the times when, at a Passover or a Pentecost, the very roofs of the houses accommodated myriads of strangers, and many, unable to find a dwelling in the crowded city, pitched their tents on the neighbouring Olivet, and echoed back to Jerusalem the nightly praise; and when, in the words of that striking hyperbole, "King Solomon made silver and gold at Jerusalem as plenteous as stones." It is impossible, indeed, to write of the modern city, with the background of Old Testament pictures rising in the memory, and not to fall into the strain of Heber's plaintive ode: -
"Reft of thy sons, amidst thy foes forlorn,
Mourn, widowed Queen! forgotten Zion, mourn.
Is this thy place, sad city, this thy throne,
Where the wild desert rears its craggy stone?"
We may mention as a remarkable feature in the police regulations of modern Jerusalem, that as it is not lighted at night, every person going out into the streets after sunset is required to have a lamp or lantern carried before him, as we remember having been obliged to do when going to an evening meeting in the house of the Protestant bishop. If you are found without a lantern, you are carried off without compunction to prison for the night - a kind of gratis accommodation intensely to be deprecated; but should you carry a lantern and be robbed, you have then recourse against the public authorities for compensation. There is advantage in the arrangement entirely apart from this latter condition, as the lantern saves you from stumbling over the many homeless dogs, and sometimes even poor homeless men, that seek a bed in the dark, arched streets. The security for person and property is in this way very considerable within the walls of the city; but should you remain outside the gates after nightfall, all security is gone. We have seen flocks of goats and sheep regularly brought in at sunset from browsing on the neighbouring mountain slopes, and carefully folded within the city. One morning, while we were sitting at breakfast, our new dragoman entered and announced to us, with an unmistakable twinkle of satisfaction in his eye, that a party of more than thirty persons, who had encamped outside the walls, but within fifty yards of St. Stephen's-gate, had been robbed at midnight. They were all English, and imagining themselves to be safe so near the city, had rashly dispensed with Arab protection. Our dragoman evidently thought, though he did not venture to say so to us, that they had been rightly served for disregarding old prescriptive privileges. We hastened down to the encampment with the intention of offering sympathy and help. We found the places all around the tents littered with trunks and portmanteaus that had been ripped open with enormous knives and swords, by dexterous thieves who had done it all without awakening one of their victims; and money, jewels, and ornaments amissing to the value of five hundred pounds. Our mortified fellow-countrymen did not show the amiable side of their character on the occasion, but were in the worst possible humour.
We have restricted our notices in this chapter to modern Jerusalem, and there is one scene which comes under this description, though it carries our thoughts far back into the past - the Wailing-place of the Jews. We were without a guide, but following in the steps of an aged Israelite, with a well-worn Hebrew Bible in his hand, we were not long in reaching the spot. Passing by a narrow path, through the midst of a dense thicket of prickly pears, we came to a very ancient wall with an open space before it, and with a few wild flowers growing here and there between the joints of its enormous stones, which the Jews believe to be a preserved fragment of their old Temple-wall. It happened to be the Friday of their Passover week, and the number of Jews assembled was unusually great, probably between eighty and one hundred - of every age, from the old white-bearded patriarch with shrivelled features and piping voice, to the beautiful melancholy boy of twelve. It was a touching sight After the lapse of eighteen dreary centuries, Israel, represented there from almost every country in the world, was weeping over her ruined Temple, her ruined city, her ruined Church, her people scattered and peeled. On that neighbouring Olivet, long ago, One had wept and prophetically said, "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate" and the words had come ringing down as a funeral knell through all those intervening ages. Some of their number were reading aloud out of the Book of Deuteronomy or the Lamentations of Jeremiah. Often there were low murmurs and sobs; some would approach the wall as if to embrace it; others would actually kiss its ancient stones. And then at intervals, when some touching passage from Jeremiah was read, such as, "How hath the Lord covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in his anger, and cast down from heaven unto the earth the beauty of Israel;" or, "How is the gold become dim! How is the most fine gold changed," the sorrow rose in a loud and prolonged wail to the skies. We knew that those poor mourners were mistaken, and that there was the one blessed fact of a crucified and risen Saviour, which, if they would only believe, would in a moment give them the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. But their sorrow was real, and their cries at times as one that mourneth for an only son; and therefore let us think of them gently, or, if we blame them, as we must, let us remember how much the unchristian treatment they have so often received from Christians, and the idolatry they have seen mingled with all the Christianity that many of them ever witnessed, have done to thicken the veil that is over their mental eyes. We acknowledge that we had never been so impressed with the deep humiliation of the Jews, as when we thus saw them weeping as downtrodden strangers in their own Jerusalem, and beholding in that Mosque of Omar, not far off, "mockery sitting on their own Salem's towers."
And yet it was possible to gather comfort respecting Israel even from that spectacle. If the dark side of the prophecy has been thus terribly fulfilled, shall not the bright side be as gloriously accomplished? The Talmud relates how one Rabbi Akiba smiled when others wept, at seeing a fox come out of the Holy of Holies. This verified prophecy, and it made him look with the more certainty for the fulfilment of prophecies of good things to come. And so at that very Wailing-place we could take out our Scriptures and read in hope: "The remnant that is escaped of the House of Judah shall yet again take root downward, and bear fruit upward" "If the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?..... And they also, if they abide not in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again." Our heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
Go To Chapter Six.
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