IN THE HOLY
MORE ABOUT JERUSALEM
Incredible traditionsThe Empress Helena and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre The Latin EasterVisit to the churchScenes at the entrancePassing tht Turkish guardsThe stone of unctionDifferent portions of the structureYoung priests as guidesPiling up of wondersTraditional CalvaryThe rent rock Description of the empty sepulchreOne of the worshippersSentiment and superstitionThe various scenes of the passion enactedTurkish soldiers keeping order- Plaintive musicProcessionLife-like image of Christ crucifiedDramatic sermon The taking down from the crossMonsignor Capel exhorting Protestant hereticsProcession from Calvary to the sepulchreInfluence of the spectacleGreek Easter as described by othersDoes this church contain the real scenes of the crucifixion and the resurrection?Reasons for doubting, topographical and historical Wisdom of Providence in this uncertainty Visit to the lepers' tentsHours in Gethsemane.
THE objects within the walls of Jerusalem that can be
identified with certainty as of Biblical interest, might almost be counted on
the fingers of our two hands. The remark is likely to be disappointing; but it
is better to bow at once before the stern fact, than to incur the worse
disappointment of having to give up rashly-formed and romantic beliefs.
No doubt, if you will abandon yourself to unquestioning sentiment and easy credulity, there are monkish guides who will hang a tradition on the corner of every street, and make the very stones in the walls vocal with sacred memories. They will even show you the house where Dives lived, and the spot where poor Lazarus lay; they will conduct you to a modern Turkish barrack in the Via Dolorosa, and assure you that this is the old palace of Pontius Pilate; they will point you to a mark in the wall of the same street, which was made by the the cross of Jesus when he bent beneath his burden and it was transferred to the willing shoulders of Simon the Cyrenian ; and if your credulity does not yet seem strained to breaking, they will venture to lead you to the roosting-place where the cock crew that brought Peter's sin to his remembrance. All these, and twenty other "puerilities" and "incredibilities," are seen to be utterly worthless, and unreal as the baseless fabric of a vision, in the presence of the simple fact, to which both Josephus and the elder Pliny bear witness, that "within the first Christian century the Romans so levelled to the ground the whole circuit of the city, that, with the exception of three towers left to exhibit the greatness of the Roman prowess in destroying it, it presented to a stranger no token of its ever having been inhabited; and this most renowned city, not only of Judea, but of the East, had become a funeral pile." The structures of modern Jerusalem are built upon the accumulated ruins of eighteen hundred years; and to find the Jerusalem of our Lord's times you must dig down to fifty, and sometimes even to eighty, feet beneath the present surface. It is not without a good deal of lingering regret that one yields himself up to the consequences of such details, and allows them to sweep away what it would have been so much more agreeable to retain. When we were conducted, for instance, to the spacious apartment now called the "Caenaculum," we should have liked to believe that it was the actual upper room in which our Lord observed his last Passover with his disciples and instituted the Lord's Supper, and in which soon afterwards the great Pentecostal effusion took place with its cloven tongues of fire and its glorious Spirit-baptisms. We could have said to modern criticism, with its iron hand making such rude work with the ivy and the flowers, "At least, spare us this." But it would not do. Not only the facts we have named, but the architectural style of the edifice, made us feel that this tradition must go with the others.
But there is one place, at least, in Jerusalem, which it would be unreasonable to set aside after this summary fashion. About the year 300, the Empress Helena, the aged mother of Constantine, believing that she had discovered both the Calvary where our Lord was crucified and the rocky tomb in which he was buried, and from which he rose again on the third day, built a church within which she inclosed both these sacred spots, and which continues to be known to this day as "the Church of the Holy Sepulchre," When the original building on which the venerable Empress had expended so much of her enthusiasm and treasure had nearly perished through decay and violence, it was rebuilt on the same site by the Crusaders; and though a large portion of it was destroyed by fire near the beginning of the present century, it was speedily restored, and continues to occupy the same spot as it did fifteen long centuries ago. During all those intervening ages, the eye of nearly all Christendom has been turned to it, in the sincere belief that it enshrines and protects the actual scenes of our Redeemer's crucifixion and resurrection. When it passed for a time into the hands of the Moslem, the heart of Christian Europe was stirred and its best blood shed for its recovery; even in our matter-of-fact days, the contest of rival powers for the honour of protecting it had something to do with the origination of the Crimean War; while every year, thousands of pilgrims, with much toil and sacrifice, come from every quarter of the earth to this world-renowned sanctuary, that they may gaze, and weep, and wonder, and worship on those very spots where the redemption of man was accomplished.
We reserve the question of the veritable genuineness of these spots for a later portion of our chapter, that we may first look upon the scenes which are meanwhile being enacted within its walls. This may help to reconcile us to the conclusion to which it is not impossible that we may be forced. It so happened that the week spent by us in Jerusalem was the week of the Latin Easter, which gave us an opportunity of witnessing scenes within this venerable edifice that filled us with astonishment, ' shame, and sorrow, but out of which, we are convinced, lessons of no little value may be evolved.
You approach the Church of the Holy Sepulchre through an open court surrounded on almost every side by miserable looking convents. There is a noisy traffic going on in the court, in coloured beads, fans, spices, carved shells, oil of roses, and sandal wood, all of which have been made doubly precious by having been taken into the church and made sacred by a priestly benediction. There are sharp-eyed money-changers also in quiet corners; while here and there the halt, the maimed, and the blind are calling piteously for alms. The front, though sombre, and made darker by the shadow of the neighbouring convents, is imposing and picturesque. One of its two doors is built up, and has been in this state since the Crusades. Over the doorway there is a somewhat defaced representation of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. A company of coarse and dirty Turkish soldiers are guarding the door, which is not yet opened; and they show the insolent and contemptuous bearing of those who know themselves to be masters. At length, the door is slowly opened; and dropping into their foul hands the prescribed "paras," we pass with strangely solemn feelings within the sacred house.
We thought of the many generations of pilgrims from every nation under heaven that had streamed through that gate; and, not least, of those mailed Crusaders who bore in their bosoms such a mixture of romance and religion, kneeling on that pavement with the consciousness of having won back "the precious tomb, their haven of salvation," as a glorious prize from the Unbeliever's grasp. The first object that arrested our attention was a large stone slab curiously streaked with veins of red, called "the stone of unction," which is said to be the stone on which the body of our Redeemer was laid after it had been taken down from the cross, for the purpose of being washed and wrapped in spices; and several pilgrims, as we passed, were bending down and kissing it with great reverence. Parts of the vast structure were portioned off as chapels or sanctuaries for the different Churches - the Greek, the Latin, the Armenian, the Coptic, and others; the Greek and Latin, being the most numerous and powerful, receiving by far the largest shares. Almost all the incidents in the last hours of our Saviour's passion have their scene fixed under this spacious roof. As it was the week of the Latin Easter, young priests of that communion were busily employed in conducting pilgrims over the various sacred spots, and repeating to them the narratives connected with them; while at intervals they chanted Latin hymns. We joined ourselves to one of those companies. Here was the place where Jesus was scourged, and the pillar to which he was bound; in this place he was mocked ; here, again, his garments were divided; and this is the prison in which he was kept while the Roman soldiers were making ready the instruments for his crucifixion; and so on with much of the same kind. It seems to have been the aim of the different Churches to pile up wonders within these walls, and to bring them into a most convenient proximity. If you will turn aside for a little into the gorgeous chapel of the Greek Church, they will show you a large round stone which, copying a well-known heathen fiction, they call the "Navel-stone," and insist on your believing that it marks the centre of the world; and they will gravely point you to another place where the skull of Adam was discovered, though they are puzzled when you ask them how it was identified as having belonged to our great progenitor.
After having nearly completed the circuit, we ascended by a considerably long flight of steps to the place which is pointed out as Calvary, where we were shown three holes in a rock, in which, we were told, the three crosses were inserted, with our Lord's in the middle. We were even pointed to a remarkable rent in a neighbouring rock, which was produced by the earthquake that signalized the awful hour of the crucifixion. Descending from this a distance of apparently about forty yards, we were conducted to the empty sepulchre of Christ. It stands directly beneath the dome of the church, from which the light streams down upon it, and makes it more distinctly luminous than any other object in the sacred edifice. It is a small, oblong, quadrilateral structure, composed of white marble, that has become yellow with the age and incense of so many centuries. Many of the lame and blind, mingling with the pilgrims, were clustering near its entrance when we approached. It consists of an ante-chamber capable of holding six or eight persons, in which the stone is shown on which the angel sat when the disciples came in the early dawn to the empty grave; though a duplicate of this stone, strongly affirmed to be the original one, is exhibited in the Armenian Convent Beyond this is the actual chamber of the sepulchre itself, declared to be the veritable "place where the Lord lay." Putting our shoes from off our feet, we bent lowly and entered. There was a sarcophagus or stone coffin covered with a simple polished stone, with eight burning lamps of gold or silver - all of them the gift of monarchs or princes - shedding down upon it a tranquil light; and this was said to cover the brief resting-place of that body which "knew no corruption." There was one who had entered before us, kissing the stone with an almost ecstasy of devotion. Even with the doubt present to our mind whether this was the real sepulchre, it was difficult not to be carried away for the moment by sympathy with such earnestness. We felt how easy it was, in some conditions, to transfer some of that devotion to localities, which can only lawfully be given to Christ himself. We were restored by the remembrance, "He is not here, but is risen as he said." After a hurried glance at the tombs of Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, which are said to be contained in another part of the edifice, we departed, intending to return again in the evening.
It was the evening of Good Friday, when the various scenes in our Saviour's passion were to be enacted in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. When we arrived, the immense building was crowded; so that it was with some difficulty we found our way to a pillar not far from the supposed Calvary, against which we tried to lean for rest and safety. As we had anticipated, the English Jesuit was there, with the Scottish marquis holding aloft a lighted candle. The first thing that struck us was the marching in, and planting at different places in the crowd, of a number of Turkish soldiers, who had come, as they said with sarcastic contempt, "to keep peace among the Christians." And no doubt they had too much pretext for this, for riots were far from infrequent on such occasions; it had even been no unusual thing for persons to be trampled to death in the crowd. And when the Greek and Latin Easters happened in the same week, the mutual hatred of the two rival communions was certain to vent itself in scenes of blood.
After some delay, the sound of plaintive music was heard in the distance, but gradually approaching nearer. By-and-by, a great procession bearing lights and crucifixes, with a multitude of young choristers robed in scarlet, were seen ascending the steps towards Calvary, one cross of large size carried aloft having a figure upon it representing Christ. The figure was of the colour of flesh, nailed to the cross by the hands and the feet with great nails, with a thorny crown upon its head, and with the appearance of blood trickling down from the temple and the sides. The great cross with this life-like image upon it was fixed in the middle of the rock on Calvary, and there it remained for a time exposed to the gaze of all the spectators. A sermon of an exceedingly dramatic kind was then preached by a priest, at the foot of the cross; after which, two persons approached, representing Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, who, ascending a ladder, and having hammers and other instruments handed to them, unfastened the nails, and taking down the body received it into a winding-sheet. Another sermon was then preached in English, by Monsignor Capel, in which Protestant heretics, like ourselves, were informed that we were "the other sheep not of this fold," of which Jesus had spoken on one occasion, and were exhorted to come into the better and safer fold in which the preacher was. Certainly the scenes of irreverent superstition, from the midst of which his appeal was made, were not fitted to make the fold attractive. The body was then covered and borne in procession, and amid the chanting of hymns, to the stone of unction which we have already described, where sweet spices were laid upon it and aromatic incense waved over it; the whole ending in its being carried to the sepulchre, and placed there as if in burial, from which it was to be brought forth again, with every sign of exultation and triumph, on the Easter morning. We confess to our having been greatly shocked and grieved by this performance. The most sacred events were dwarfed by it and degraded. Instead of ensouling those facts, it seemed rather to take the soul out of them. It was an intrusion into an awful presence, in which angels would have veiled their faces with their wings. It did not appear generally to impress the spectators; but how great was the danger that even those who were impressed would mistake the mere temporary excitement of their sensibilities for the working of true religious feeling! This was the scene at the Latin Easter; but at the Greek Easter, which follows somewhat later, there is not only superstation, but what it is impossible to characterize otherwise than as gross and impious imposture. Even the Roman Catholic Church reprobates and ridicules it, though she can scarcely do this with clean hands while she continues to sanction the annual liquefaction of the blood of St. Januarius at Naples. Then the Greek bishop or patriarch, descending into the Holy Sepulchre, pretends to receive fire from heaven, such as that which came down at the first Christian Pentecost. At a particular juncture, a sudden noise like the rumbling of distant thunder is heard; instant cries follow, "The fire, the holy fire, has fallen!" and soon after a light is thrust through an opening in the tomb - a supply of the miraculous flame having first been secured for the monks in the Convent of Mar Saba. The numerous pilgrims, frantic with excitement, rush with their candles to the entrance and catch the sacred fire, and soon the whole place is in a blaze of illumination. To gain this one prize, we are assured, to bathe in the Jordan, and to carry away a dress that has been dipped, in its waters, which is to be afterwards used as a winding-sheet, has been the object for which multitudes have come from far-distant countries, and travelled with incredible hardships over thousands of miles. The candles are soon extinguished, and carried home to their villages far away, as the most precious trophies. From that time, we are told, they appear on every important occasion in their history. They are lit again, and held over the man's head and over that of his bride, when he is married; they serve as tapers at the baptism of his children; when extinguished, they are hung over the threshold of his door, and serve as a safeguard against all intruders, and goblins, and ghosts. And when eventually he sets forth on his last earthly pilgrimage, and sickness, and pain, and trembling, and sorrow are the sole companions of his dread journey, then the priest will hold up the remains of these relics before his already half-glazed eyes, and they are expected to cheer him through the valley of the shadow of death. The last service they render is, when once more lighted, they are placed at the feet of the dead man, with his rigid form and closed eyes, and here they burn on lower and lower through the long hours of night till they expire.
How strange and saddening it is that that edifice which, beyond all others, claims to enshrine the spots on which occurred the great events of human redemption, should be the chosen scene in which superstition, imposture, and jugglery play such foul and fantastic tricks as are a scandal to the world! But is there evidence to convince the unprepossessed mind that this church does contain the actual scenes of our Lord's crucifixion and resurrection? We suspect that modern inquiry will prove this old and extensively-credited tradition to have been a mistake and a delusion. When we were in Jerusalem, we were convinced on this matter against our will; the old cherished tradition died very hard within us. Our process of doubting was this. We knew from the Gospel narratives that our Lord was crucified and buried outside the walls of the city. But when we stood on the roof of the Protestant bishop's house, and took in at a glance the whole look of the city, we were astonished to observe how very near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre stood to its centre. It was next to impossible for us to believe that when Jerusalem contained a population perhaps fifty times greater than it now does, its boundaries were narrower; and this in the only direction in which it was possible for the city to have greatly extended - that is, towards the north-west. All topography then is against the supposition that the tomb of Jesus was here. But when we examine the evidence of historical tradition, we find that the links in the chain are weakest where they need to be strongest, and that they dissolve into sand while we handle them. The apostles do not appear to have given any heed to the scenes of those events. Those earnest, suffering men were concerned with the facts, not with the localities. Paul visits Jerusalem once and again, and he does not even once speak either of Calvary or of the empty grave. Then when, at the destruction of Jerusalem, the Christians fled from it to Pella, they did not return for more than sixty years, during which intervening period the whole city had been reduced to ruins. And if it be true, as Jerome says from mere hearsay, that Hadrian, in order to insult the Christians, built over the place of Christ's sepulchre a temple to the Paphian Venus, how was it that when the Empress Helena came eagerly searching for the sepulchre, she did not find her information in this circumstance, but was obliged to draw it out by torture, in her own imperial way, from a few unhappy Jews who were ready to purchase their liberty and their lives by an easy falsehood, which the credulous old Empress was even more ready to swallow than they were to invent!
Let us notice in connection with these reasonings the fact that those travellers who have done so much to cast doubt upon the genuineness of the traditional scene of the resurrection, are quite as much at variance with each other in their attempts to associate the all-important event with some other spot. Dr. Robinson conjectures that it must have been on the road leading from the Damascus or the Jaffa gate; more recent travellers give their reasons for preferring an open space outside St Stephen's gate, which is to this day a place of burial, and looks down towards Gethsemane. Do not all these facts lead to the conclusion that it was the intention of Providence, for the wisest and most beneficent ends, to withhold from us this knowledge? He who "knew what was in man" concealed the place where he had buried Moses, that the Israelites might not be tempted to turn it into a scene of superstition. And on the same principle, it appears to have been ordered that the spots on which the most momentous events in the life of Christ occurred, should be veiled in uncertainty. Great natural objects in Palestine, such as mountains, and rivers, and lakes, and valleys - the knowledge of which helps to confirm our faith, and to illustrate the Scriptures - are capable of being identified; but minute objects which would be almost certain, if known, to be abused to purposes of superstition, are left undiscoverable. We know Mount Olivet, but we cannot tell where are the very spots on the mountain where our Redeemer retired to pray. We can identify Bethany, but not with certainty the green sward near to it from which Christ ascended to heaven. We are no more able to declare with confidence where was the tomb of Christ, than where was the grave of Moses. God would cut us off from temptations to superstition. Moreover, he would prevent us from localizing a religion which was designed to be universal - from attaching that kind and measure of interest to places which can only properly belong to the facts of which those places were the scene, from materializing the spiritual, and from in any degree enchaining, as it were, in a temple made with hands that religion which is destined to turn the whole earth into a temple of God.
How different from all the gaudy tinsel and tawdry finery and unreality of which we had witnessed so much in that house of superstition, was the spectacle which we beheld on a following day, when, wandering a little way outside the walls of the city, we came upon the dwellings of the lepers? It is quite near to Zion-gate, and within an arrow-shot of the traditional tomb of David. There was no terrible reality which we saw in Jerusalem equal to this. The place is separated from all other human habitations, and consists of a rude court or inclosure, containing about twenty miserable huts or kennels. At the sound of our voices and footsteps the lepers came out into the sunlight, clamouring, with most unearthly sounds, for charity. It was a horrid picture that unhappy band, looking as if a triple curse had fallen on them. Death was visibly eating them away. Some were of a liver colour, others white as snow - all deformed. Handless arms were held out to us; half consumed limbs were obtruded; countenances wofully defaced and eyeless were turned up to us; and cries came out from palateless mouths that were wildly imploring and inhuman. The old law which prohibited the leper from touching or drawing near to a clean person was scrupulously regarded by them, so that, even when they begged, they stretched out to us little iron cups, into which we might drop our alms. There was no possibility of resisting the appeals of such wretchedness as this. Various reflections occurred to us as we looked on those rotting wrecks of our humanity. We were struck anew with the wisdom of the Levitical law in its provisions for the isolation and treatment of lepers, being evidently adapted to restrict the disease within the narrowest limits. We saw, with deepened impression, with what instructive fitness leprosy has been employed in Scripture as the emblem of sin - hereditary, contagious, ever tending to increase, and incurable except by the power of God. And we bore away from the spectacle a deeper sense of the infinite compassion and power of Christ. One look at a leper assures that no power but God's can cure such ingrained and malignant disease as this. But Jesus did it, not disdaining even to touch with his gentle hand the loathsome sufferer, and sending him away to the temple to give God the praise.
But there was one place in Jerusalem which we had yet to visit, "the most sacred spot in the Mohammedan world next to Mecca, the most beautiful structure for Mohammedan worship next to Cordova" - the Mosque of Omar, known in Moslem speech as the "Dome of the Rock," or the "Noble Sanctuary." We shall not minutely record those accurate measurements of its size which are to be found repeated by so many writers, or attempt to play with the phraseology of architecture. We shall be satisfied if, by a few sentences, we succeed in conveying a clear impression of its position and appearance, though every picture that one sees of Jerusalem makes him more or less familiar with it. On the summit of Mount Moriah, which has been artificially levelled, there spreads the noble inclosure of the Haram, consisting, it is believed, of thirty-five acres more or less. This inclosure is the most beautifully green of any spot in or around Jerusalem. Its beauty is much increased by solitary olives, planes, and cypresses, by graceful fountains, and praying-places exquisitely adorned in the peculiar style of Arabian architecture. Nearly in the centre of this Haram is a raised platform, to which entrance is found by four richly ornamented gateways and on this platform, with a pavement, in some places of marble and in others of white polished limestone, rests this grand cathedral of the Mohammedan faith. In shape, it is an octagon, each side of which measures sixty-seven feet Its walls, rising in successive storeys to a height of more than a hundred feet, are adorned with variegated marble of elegant and intricate pattern. Above, there rises a beautiful bulbous-shaped dome of blue, surmounted by a glittering crescent There is a gracefulness of proportion and a light airy elegance about it, to which we saw nothing to compare in all the East. This was our impression even when near it. But our admiration of the whole picture was deepened when we afterwards gazed upon it in an afternoon from the distance of the Mount of Olives. Every sound was hushed, and there it seemed to rest -
"In undisturbed and lone serenity,
Finding itself a solemn sanctuary
In the profound of heaven."
Its beautiful green-sward, dotted and shaded, here and there, with some solitary tree of darker hue, its exquisitely carved marble fountains, its praying-niches and places for reading and meditation, its veiled women in dresses of pure white moving over the scene, and appearing and disappearing like creatures from the spirit-world, its turbaned men bending or laid prostrate in the various acts of Moslem worship, the noble dome of the Mosque rising grandly in the centre of all, and giving back in many-coloured glory the splendours of the western heaven, altogether presented one of the most unique pictures in the world.
We were admitted to its interior, but it was not equal in furniture or in majestic proportions to the Grand Mosque at Cairo, which we had already seen, or to the Church of St. Sophia at Constantinople, which we were yet to see; and it contained nothing of special interest, unless some of our readers should find an exception in the mark of Mohammed's footsteps, or in the finger-prints of the angel Gabriel!
In the south-west corner of the Haram there is another mosque of much smaller dimensions, El.Aksa, which is approached from the Dome of the Rock by a paved footpath passing through an avenue of cypress-trees. Originally a Christian church built in the sixth century by the Emperor Justinian, it passed into the hands of the followers of the false prophet at the period of the Saracen conquest. When the Crusaders conquered and recovered Jerusalem, it again became a Christian church, and, designated by them "the Temple of Solomon," gave its name to those military ecclesiastics, the Knights Templars. It would be more admired were it further distant from the overshadowing Mosque, which keeps it under perpetual eclipse. It is like a violet growing beside a sun-flower.
It was not, however, the Mosque and its attendant beauty which gave to this inclosure in our eyes so profound an interest, and made us wish to linger on it for hours; but the belief, which there seems no good reason to dispute, that it really covers the site of the ancient Jewish Temple, with its appurtenances. The thought of this made us turn our back upon the Mosque, and wander again and again in silence over what had once been holy ground. As we sought shelter in the shadow fontied by a venerable cypress-tree, our attention was turned to a mass of unhewn rock of great size rising above the surface, and which had evidently remained through thousands of years, amid all the signs of human art and exquisite ornament everywhere around it, untouched and unchanged. No mallet or chisel had ever fallen upon it. Why was this? There must surely have been some mighty reason for leaving it thus unchanged, when everything else was changed, - remaining to this hour the highest natural point on Mount Moriah. It seemed reasonably probable, as some have suggested, that either on this very spot, or near it, Abraham had reared the altar and kindled the fire for the sacrifice of Isaac, when his uplifted hand was stayed and arrested by the angel's voice. Nor could it be far from this that Oman the Jebusite had his threshing-floor, and was engaged in threshing wheat when the plague was desolating Jerusalem. "Then the angel of the Lord came and stood by the threshing-floor, having a drawn sword in his hand, stretched over Jerusalem." From the hill of Zion on the opposite side, over the Tyropaean Valley, David beheld the vision, and prostrating himself with his elders before the Lord, hastened, under the direction of the prophet Gad, to build an altar and to offer sacrifices. " And David bought the threshing-floor for six hundred shekels of gold, offered burnt-offerings and peace-offerings, and called upon the Lord; and the Lord answered him from heaven by fire upon the altar of burnt-offering. And the Lord commanded the angel, and he put up his sword again into the sheath thereof."
Around this memorable rock Solomon afterwards erected his Temple; and some have ventured the bold conjecture that on this unhewn mass, so rich in sacred memories even then, he reared the altar of burnt-offering. If there is any truth in these conjectures, then it rises to something more than probability that this very inclosure on which we now stood, was trodden for many a century by the feet of prophets and men of God; and that at length it witnessed many of the miracles and echoed many of the lessons of the great Teacher himself, as he walked upon it followed by groups of wondering listeners, and "spake as never man spake." Few scenes, therefore, in all the world, cluster with so many hallowed associations. We felt that this spot belonged especially, and by a kind of inalienable right, to the Christian Church. And as we turned round and saw the gilded crescent on the top of the Mosque, or looked forth and beheld the crescent-ensign waving from the Turkish citadel, we cried out in spirit, " How long, O Lord, how long?"
As we returned from this great scene, and looked down to note the north of the Temple area, we noticed a deep chasm, which, we were told, marked the ruins of the ancient pool of Bethesda. If it be indeed this, how has its glory departed? Only a few of the porches can now be traced where the sick were laid, and in one of which Christ healed the impotent man who had been afflicted "for thirty and eight years." There are no gurgling waters now, or descending angel to impart to them healing virtue; but nettles, and weeds, and rubbish, cover and pollute the hospital in which God himself was the healer. The pool of Hezekiah, which we also visited, does credit to this day, after the lapse of more than two thousand years, to the engineering skill and patriotic energy of that pious king whom commentators usually describe as pliant and passive, but who was really one of the most active monarchs that ever sat on the throne of Judah. In its uninjured state, that immense reservoir could have held water for the supply of half Jerusalem. At this hour the principal baths of the city are filled from it.
We have now noticed the chief places that were visited by us within the walls. But there was one place without the walls to which we made frequent visits during our city wanderings, and which exercised over us, during the whole time of our stay in Jerusalem, an irresistible fascination. We refer, of course, to the Garden of Gethsemane. Let us describe our first visit to it. Going out of the city by St. Stephen's-gate, we passed through the midst of a Mohammedan burying-ground, which comes up almost to the gate. It was a Moslem holiday, and multitudes of women and children were sitting at picnics among the tombs; for this people have no sensibility or awe at the neighbourhood of death. They are merry and festive with their dead sleeping a few inches beneath their feet. Not many steps forward brought us to the brow of a precipice; and looking down a few hundred yards, we saw, at the foot of that part of Olivet which comes nearest to Jerusalem, the solemn garden stretched out before us. We had no inclination now to advert GETHSEMANE. ill to the fact that the traditional scene of Stephen's martyrdom, was almost at our side. Our eye was rivetted on the one spot beneath. Descending by a winding rocky path, we crossed the empty channel of the Kidron by a little bridge; and then, going up a few paces, and knocking at a door in the lofty gray wall by which the garden is surrounded, we were received by one of the monks to whose care the garden is committed. Flowers are assiduously cultivated within the sacred inclosure, - the wild-rose, the passion-flower, with rosemary, wormwood, and other symjaolical herbs; but those eight old olive-trees, with their enormous girths and fantastically gnarled branches, were really the only objects that we looked upon. They can be historically certified as twelve hundred years old; and as it is one law in the natural life of the olive that it sprouts again after it has been cut down to the level of the ground, on the supposition that this is the real Gethsemane, there is nothing improbable in the imagination that those patriarchal olives may have grown from the very trees which shaded the place of our Redeemer's ineffable soul-agony and sweat of blood. And is the supposition unlikely 1 It is surely possible on these matters to doubt too much. The strong acid of modern criticism sometimes tries to consume real gold. The limits of the original garden must have been a good deal more extensive; but many things combine to favour the belief that this inclosed portion of Olivet formed a part of it.
The evangelical narrative 'distinctly indicates that the place was reached by our Lord and his disciples almost immediately after they had crossed the Kidron; and the chain of clear, unwavering tradition from the days of Eusebius downwards, links us to the same locality. And there are two facts which so exactly fit in to this opinion as not a little to confirm us in the belief that this was indeed the veritable garden of the agony. Does it not seem obvious from the Gospel histories, that on the evening of his mysterious soul-conflict, when " it pleased the no POOLS OF BETHESDA AND OF HEZEK1AH. the north of the Temple area, we noticed a deep chasm, which, we were told, marked the ruins of the ancient pool of Bethesda. If it be indeed this, how has its glory departed I Only a few of the porches can now be traced where the sick were laid, and in one of which Christ healed the impotent man who had been afflicted "for thirty and eight years." There are no gurgling waters now, or descending angel to impart to them healing virtue; but nettles, and weeds, and rubbish, cover and pollute the hospital in which God himself was the healer. - The pool of Hezekiah, which we also visited, does credit to this day, after the lapse of more than two thousand years, to the engineering skill and patriotic energy of that pious king whom commentators usually describe as pliant and passive, but who was really one of the most active monarchs that ever sat on the throne of Judah. In its uninjured state, that immense reservoir could have held water for the supply of half Jerusalem. At this hour the principal baths of the city are filled from it.
We have now noticed the chief places that were visited by us within the walls. But there was one place without the walls to which we made frequent visits during our city wanderings, and which exercised over us, during the whole time of our stay in Jerusalem, an irresistible fascination. We refer, of course, to the Garden of Gethsemane. Let us describe our first visit to it. Going out of the city by St. Stephen's-gate, we passed through the midst of a Mohammedan burying-ground, which comes up almost to the gate. It was a Moslem holiday, and multitudes of women and children were sitting at picnics among the tombs; for this people have no sensibility or awe at the neighbourhood of death. They are merry and festive with their dead sleeping a few inches beneath their feet. Not many steps forward brought us to the brow of a precipice; and looking down a few hundred yards, we saw, at the foot of that part of Olivet which comes nearest to Jerusalem, the solemn garden stretched out before us. We had no inclination now to advert GETHSEMANE. Ill to the fact that the traditional scene of Stephen's martyrdom, was almost at our side. Our eye was rivetted on the one spot beneath. Descending by a winding rocky path, we crossed the empty channel of the Kidron by a little bridge; and then, going up a few paces, and knocking at a door in the lofty gray wall by which the garden is surrounded, we were received by one of the monks to whose care the garden is committed. Flowers are assiduously cultivated within the sacred inclosure, - the wild-rose, the passion-flower, with rosemary, wormwood, and other symbolical herbs; but those eight old olive-trees, with their enormous girths and fantastically gnarled branches, were really the only objects that we looked upon. They can be historically certified as twelve hundred years old; and as it is one law in the natural life of the olive that it sprouts again after it has been cut down to the level of the ground, on the supposition that this is the real Gethsemane, there is nothing improbable in the imagination that those patriarchal olives may have grown from the very trees which shaded the place of our Redeemer's ineffable soul-agony and sweat of blood. And is the supposition unlikely \ It is surely possible on these matters to doubt too much. The strong acid of modern criticism sometimes tries to consume real gold. The limits of the original garden must have been a good deal more extensive; but many things combine to favour the belief that this inclosed portion of Olivet formed a part of it.
The evangelical narrative "distinctly indicates that the place was reached by our Lord and his disciples almost immediately after they had crossed the Kidron; and the chain of clear, unwavering tradition from the days of Eusebius downwards, links us to the same locality. And there are two facts which so exactly fit in to this opinion as not a little to confirm us in the belief that this was indeed the veritable garden of the agony. Does it not seem obvious from the Gospel histories, that on the evening of his mysterious soul-conflict, when " it pleased the 112 THE TRUE GARDEN. Father to bruise him," our Lord sought for darkness as well as silence] And as it was then full moon, this was the one place over which the neighbouring rocks on the Jerusalem side of the Kidron gorge would cast a long and deep shadow, and aiding that of, the olive-trees, would make the awful retirement complete. Then, when Jesus is represented as saying to his disciples at the entrance to the garden, " Arise, let us be going : see, he is at hand that doth betray me," it would appear that his expectant eye must have seen from that point the exit of-Judas and his ruffian-band, bearing lanterns and torches, jjom one of the eastern gates, or their coming round the corner of the wall; and it is remarkable that the same view can be commanded from the midst of those aged olives now. It was natural that with these convictions we should abandon ourselves for a time to the influence of the religio loci - the sacred associations of the scene. We kept ourselves carefully aloof from the good-natured monks, with their puerile legends, and sitting down alone, under what seemed the oldest of the olive-trees, took the evangelist Luke for our only guide. We thought of that most memorable and momentous of all nights in the history of human redemption. We thought of the prostrate form of the Son of God, of his " strong crying and tears," of his intense soul-anguish, of his sweat of blood, of that most glorious triumph of resignation to the will of his Father which earth ever witnessed, and of that love to his people, which many waters could not quench or many floods drown. We entered into the spirit of those words of the hymn, -
"Go to dark Gethsemane,
Ye that feel the Tempter's power ;
Your Redeemer's conflict see,
Watch with him one bitter hour :
Turn not from his griefs away;
Learn of Jesus Christ to pray."
Many a time afterwards, we came to the brow of the precipice before St. Stephen's gate, and gazed silently down into the garden. May Gethsemane be green in our memory for ever !
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