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racterized, even in those deplorable days of apostasy and desolation, as a people eminent for piety and virtue. On which accounts, they were then selected by Jehovah, as their ancestor had been three hundred years before, for a standing witness against the far more highly-favoured, yet perverse and disobedient sons of Israel.
It is needless to enlarge on the valuable character of the
Townson, D.D. Rector of Malpas in Cheshire. This Sermon contains the best summary extant, of the scriptural notices of the Rechabites and Kenites. And, in consulting it for a critical purpose, the reader will scarcely fail to derive a high moral gratification. See Dr. Townson's Works, vol. ii.
The promise made to the house of the Rechabites in the time of Je. remiah, appears to be in operation to the present day. It has been stated by Mr. Wolff, the German missionary, in his Journal, that he found this erratic tribe still existing in Arabia, in the vicinity of Mount Horeb; that he subsequently fell in with one of their encampments, in the neighbourhood of Mecca; and that, although otherwise grossly igno. rant, they still religiously abstain from wine, and continue to dwell in tents, — assigning as the reason of both observances, that it was so commanded them, by Jonadab their forefather. Mr. W. further mentions, that, to their faithful observance of the latter of those precepts, he was indebted for a most providential escape from the great earthquake at Aleppo. For, journeying thither, in company with the Rechabites, they refused to enter the city, but pitched their tents without the walls. Mr. Wolff remained with them. And during the night, a shock took place, which buried a great part of Aleppo, with some thousands of the inhabitants, in promiscuous ruin.
It were much to be wished, that an exact inquiry should be made, by our British residents in those parts, respecting the people here described. A more interesting subject of inquiry, it is not easy to conceive. According to the foregoing statement, while the house of Israel has wholly disappeared, and while the house of Judah has, for nearly eighteen hundred years, been dispersed abroad, as wanderers and outcasts, over every country of the known world, — the house of the Rechabites would appear to have remained undisturbed inhabitants of Arabia and Palestine,-a living witness against the disobedience of the chosen people, and a lasting memorial of that unchangeable word of the Lord, “ Jonadab, the son of Rechab, shall not want a man to stand before me FOR EVER !”
light, reflected upon the religion of Arabia in the days of Moses and Jethro, by the scriptural accounts just cited, respecting this insulated people. *
But, for proofs of the transmission to later times, of that patriarchal faith which certainly existed in Arabia in the Mosaic age, we ought to look, not without, but within, the peninsula.
And here, it might seem useless to expect light from Scripture, which touches little upon the history, and still less upon the religious belief, of the nations bordering on Palestine. It happens, however, that, in the instance of Arabia, Scripture has preserved two historical facts, very observable in themselves, and, on first view, apparently difficult of explanation; but which admit of being explained, in a perfectly satisfactory and consistent way, when once taken in connection with the earlier vestiges adduced above, of the patriarchal origin, and traditional preservation, of religion, among the ante-Mahometan Arabians. The former of those incidental facts is supplied by the Old, the latter by the New, Testament.
The earlier of the occurrences in question, is, the celebrated journey of the Queen of Sheba to Jerusalem ; whither she went up “ to hear the wisdom of Solomon.” There has been some needless difference of opinion among the learned, about the country of this eastern princess. But, by a nearly unanimous consent, she has been rightly placed in the country of Yeman, the Arabia Felix of the classical writers. Her designation by our Lord, in the Gospel, as “ the Queen of the South,” had, in truth, determined the question of her native sphere of rule, long before it was agitated. For the inhabitants of Judæa invariably applied the phrase, “ the South," as its proper name, when they spoke of that part of the Arabian peninsula, which lay to the southward of Pa
* One important precept, common to the law of the Rechabites and to that of Mahomet, peculiarly claims attention ; namely, the injunction to abstain from wine. The common origin of the reformations is discernible, in the corresponding prohibitions of the reformers.
lestine. The Queen of the South *, accordingly, is generally allowed to have reigned over the flourishing kingdom of Sheba, Saba, or Sabæa t; a region of the Happy Arabia, where, as foreign and native authorities agree in testifying, it was customary for women to inherit, and administer, the sovereign power. I
With reference.to the scriptural account of her voyage to Jerusalem, however, on any ordinary hypothesis, the undertaking of this Arabian princess seems by no means easily accounted for. Suppose her, for example, to have been a heathen, wholly ignorant of the true God, and unacquainted, consequently, with the character of the wisdom of Solomon, or the inspiration from which it flowed, -- and does it not appear most unlikely, that a female sovereign, living in a remote extremity of Arabia, should withdraw herself from the seat of government (always a critical step in eastern countries 5); should abandon to others the care of her subjects; and should encounter, lastly, the hazards and hardships of a journey across the desert, — merely on learning the popular fame of the wisdom of the King of Israel, how
• Her country will appear, on comparison of the scriptural account of her presents, with that given by Strabo of the produce of Sabæa : “ And she gave the king an hundred and twenty talents of gold, and of spices very great store : - there came no more such abundance of spices, as the Queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.” 1 Kings, X. 10. Compare App. i. p. 399. note (*).
+ According to Patricides, the adopted country of Ishmael. Cf. Hott H. O. p. 37. | See Pocock. Spec. p. 60.
“ Saraceni mulieres aiunt in eos regnare.” Expos. totius mundi, p. 3. ap. Hudson, tom. iii. cf. Decline and Fall, vol. ix. p. 234. “ Scilicet Reginam Austri, ad magnum Israëlitarum regem Salomonem venientem, ut sapientiam ejus audiret, non ex Meroë, quod ex Josepho contendit Grotius, sed ex Sabæa regione Arabia fuisse, facile summo viro Samueli Bocharto assentimur, recteque ei calculum alios viros doctissimos adjecisse concedimus.” Brucker, Hist. Crit. Philos. tom. i. pp. 215, 216.
§ Particularly in Yeman, where the law, as reported by Agatharcides, was, that the sovereign must not leave the palace, -- un EELVAL EK TWv baoLelwv. Decline and Fall, ut supr.
ever great and wide-spread the report of that wisdom might be ?
But, let the visit of the Queen of Sheba be regarded under another aspect, let it be taken in connection with the proofs already indicated, of the introduction and transmission of the religion of Abraham, through different channels, among the Arab tribes; and her undertaking will appear at once natural and explicable, to every sincere believer in Revelation; for, on this supposition, it has a just and adequate motive. Since, worshipping, though with fainter lights, and lower opportunities, the same Almighty God whom Solomon worshipped, - and qualified, therefore, to apprehend and appreciate the wisdom which flowed from Him, — this Queen of the South might well desire, at whatever cost, to improve herself in the knowledge of divine truth, at the feet of the King of Israel. In a word, grant the Sabæan princess, like so many of her countrymen, to have known and cherished the first principles of the patriarchal faith, and the reasonableness and likelihood of her voyage to Jerusalem are equally clear. But she did make the journey: and this simple fact, by strict parity of reasoning, implies, both her knowledge of the religion, and her worship of the God, of Abraham. *
And thus, from the case of the Queen of the South, may be drawn a double confirmation of our present argument: for, while the preceding evidences of the continuous existence of the patriarchal belief in Arabia, on the one hand, satisfactorily explains her extraordinary enterprize; on the
* The whole inferences deduced above, from the probabilities of the case abstractedly considered, are supported by the Scripture narrative ; which expressly assigns a religious motive for the Queen's journey, and which affirms, by implication, her acquaintance with the true God: “ And when the Queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon, concerning the name of the Lord, she came to prove him with hard questions. And Solomon told her all her questions: there was not any thing hid from the King, which he told her not. And when the Queen of Sheba had seen all Solomon's wisdom, she said to the king, It was a true report that I heard in mine own land, of thy acts, and of thy wisdom. — Blessed be the Lord thy God, which delighteth in thee, to set thee on the throne of Israel : because the Lord ved Israel for ever, therefore made he thee king, do judgment and justice.” i Kings, x, 1-9.
other hand, her progress to Jerusalem supplies a fresh independent proof, that at least the substance of the patriarchal religion still subsisted in the peninsula, in her day.
To pass, at this point of the evidence, from the Old Testament, to the New: the Gospel history, it is deserving of special notice, records a parallel journey from Arabia to Jerusalem, on a similar errand : “ Now, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men * from the East, to Jerusalem, saying, Where is He that is born King of the Jews ? For we have seen his star in the East, and are come to worship him.”
The native country of these wise men, or magi, has also been made the subject of learned discussion : although with little reason ; excepting, indeed, as an agreeable exercise for the ingenuity of critical conjecture. For, in this memorable example, prophecy, and the general consent of Christian antiquity, combine with the geographical indications, and with the nature of the presents or offerings of these eastern sages, to fix their abode in Arabia.
David, in an express prediction of the advent of the Messiah, had foretold concerning it: “ The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents; the kings of Sheba and Seba (or Arabia and Saba) shall offer gifts :" and again, “ Unto him shall be given of the gold of Sheba (or Arabia)." + Isaiah, when speaking of the coming in of the Gentiles to Christ, does so, by enlarging and perfecting this prediction of the royal Psalmist : “ The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah : all they from Sheba shall come ; they shall bring gold and incense ; and they shall show forth the praises of the Lord. All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together unto thee; the rams of Nebaioth shall minister unto thee: they shall come up with acceptance on mine altar, and I will glorify the house of my glory. - Surely the isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far, their silver and their gold with them, unto the name of the Lord
* Gr. Mayoto
f Ps. lxxii. 10. 15.