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antipathy against the privileged classes of the old world, to the nearest analogous classes in this, he seeks by sophistries and lies, to infuse these imbittered feelings into the masses, who, for the present only occupy a lower position, forgetting, or willingly ignorant of the fact, that in our social economy no privileged or transmitted classes can exist; that the operatives of one generation often become the capitalists of the next, and the sons of the rich, employees of the children of their fathers' prolétaires. And then there are native-born demagogues, catching by contagion or infection the worst features of the disease, and laboring by word and pen and press, to hurry on our population to experiments in agrarianism and socialism, which centuries of time and seas of blood ought to have sufficiently demonstrated, can end only in destruction.
Others may deem these distant or fancied dangers. We would fain hope that it may be so ! We shall be glad to prove in this respect false prophets, if it pleases God. In any event, it will be consolatory to know that we have honestly endeavored to portray the arts, and put our countrymen on their guard against the influence of the demagogue, who deals in flattery and deception, only that he may at last destroy those whom he leads.
Art. IV. WERE DATES THE ME'AL 'ASPION OF JOHN THE
In wandering through that land of peculiar and sacred relations, Palestine, the traveller often finds himself amid scenes of thrilling interest. In an excursion from Jerusalem to Jericho and the Jordan, the mission of John the Baptist, as well as the food which sustained him, came prominently before our minds for consideration; and we have noted down some impressions on these subjects, which were suggested by our personal observation of that interesting locality of his advent as the harbinger of the Messiah.
and not Oriehe Bible, as our special
Our simple aim is to elicit truth ; our special object, to inquire whether the “wild honey," which, with locusts, was the food of the Baptist, is to be found in the fruit of the palm tree.
The character of John, and that of his mission, were alike remarkable; himself the subject of prophecy in the unique office he was destined to fill, as at once the herald to prepare the way and a witness to testify to the Jewish people the appearance of their long expected Messiah. The garb he wore and the food he ate have each, and often, been a theme for discussion, while the facts in the premises have been very imperfectly understood. The theatre, too, on which he is introduced to our notice, the wilderness of Judea, no less than the personage himself and the office he sustains, may well excite our interest and deserve our special attention.
We read the Bible, as we read other history, with American and not Oriental eyes; and so the scenery we find there portrayed is often imperfectly apprehended. This remark, we conceive, is specially applicable to the wilderness in question. Apart from this, however, it has doubtless often appeared strange and inexplicable that a wilderness, and especially such as that is found to be, should have been selected by Infinite Wisdom for the accomplishment of such designs of mercy; and the skeptic might speciously ask questions in this relation to which every lover of revelation, and possibly some of its expounders, might not be prepared to give a satisfactory solution, and so "justify the ways of God to man.” The same is equally true, also, in regard to the food indicated in the account of the Evangelist.
It is to the Christian a cheering consideration that new proofs of the inspired authority and accuracy of the sacred scriptures are constantly developed. What seemed contradictory has been found harmonious ; what seemed unreasonable and incredible to the infidel objector, has been shown to be founded on reasons the most satisfactory and conclusive. All the research of the traveller, and all the investigations of science, we feel assured, are yet to be made tributary to the honor of the sacred page. We have travelled over the scenes of Scripture record in Palestine, with the Bible open, and this conviction was deeply impressed upon us as the result.
Much information illustrative of the historic and narrative portions of the Bible, is yet to be derived from a more accurate acquaintance with the topography of Palestine and other parts of the Orient connected with Biblical history. Our countryman, Dr. Robinson, has done much in this field of investigation, and we may hope that his present sojourn there will be productive of rich results. A knowledge of the physical structure of the country in general, or of particular localities, when well understood, will often shed new interest and delight on the pursuits of the Scripture student. We believe the theatre of John's first “preaching;" the wilderness of Judea; no less than the food which there and elsewhere sustained him, are topics which need just the kind of elucidation to which we refer.
We will not detain the reader nor linger long in an attempt to portray the thrilling sensations or the eager gaze of the pilgrim in Palestine, as he visits the numerous places of unequaled interest there found. Arrived within the precincts of the sacred city, he will quickly be attracted to the sides and summits of Olivet, that triple-topped mount so often pressed by the footsteps of “the man of sorrows" as he went forth on errands of mercy. When he has reached that interesting point of observation, the summit of its central elevation, he will be twenty-five hundred feet above the Mediterranean, and four thousand above the adjacent Jordan-valley and Dead Sea. Directing his eye eastward, he will see the high table-land or mountains of Moab, Ammon and Gilead, on the east side of the valley of the Jordan. They are more than thirty miles in the distance, but seen through the clear ether of an eastern sky they hardly appear ten.
In the deep recesses of the valley a narrow strip of vegetation marks the devious path of the Jordan. But between these distant and interesting scenes and the mount, the visitor will behold an extensive region of high, steep and naked hills stretching along on the western side of the Jordan-valley and the Dead Sea, presenting one wide field of barrenness.
This drear and desolate region is “the wilderness of Judea,” a region still in perfect keeping with the poetic description of a region
S pende den wahe pooru uesuu David in the sixty-third Psalm; "a dry and thirsty land where no water is.” We might here also cite from Josephus, who gives
s of the valley ordan. But the visitor will
a like description of it as it appeared in his day. In fact, these lofty peaks bear conclusive evidence that they have ever presented the same sterile aspect. Not a solitary village occupies their summits or slopes, no verdant forest or field clothes their sides. No cool perennial stream refreshes those deep valleys and gorges. When we performed our journey from Jerusalem “down to Jericho,” our path lay directly over this wide waste; nor did we find it any the more inviting on a nearer approach. Had we traversed it unprotected we should, in all human probability, have realized another peculiarity of its ancient character. Like him in the parable of the Good Samaritan of old, we should have “fallen among thieves.”
As we passed along the deep gorges and over the rough ridges and crooked pathways of this “highway of the desert," trodden by more than a hundred generations of men, we needed to entertain little doubt as to what scenery the “evangelical prophet” had in his thoughts when the fortieth chapter of Isaiah was penned. The graphic scenery portrayed in these predictions finds here its illustration. On this great highway in the wilderness, we feel quite assured, we may locate the pulpit of the Baptist; and the more mature consideration of our first impressions has the more deeply confirmed them.
We believe the true idea of John's public labors, here and elsewhere, is that he was emphatically a wayside or highway preacher. “He came neither eating bread nor drinking wine;" mingled not in the usual associations of men, but in the prosecution of his peculiar mission posted himself on the large and most frequented thoroughfares, and there made his announcements to the passing throngs; by whom they would be quickly heralded far and wide through the land. We may well assume that John would charge them to the performance of a service so welcome to the expectant nation. In the language of Isaiah, in the chapter just cited: “O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, get the up into the high mountain ; 0 thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid ; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!" (see the marginal readings, Isa. xl. 9.) If we are correct in this view, it involves important suggestions on the interesting topic of John's baptism, especially
it up, bee the mar
its mode ; (Mark i. 4.) but as that theme is foreign to our present object, we may not pursue it. We feel warranted in the assumption, then, that it was on this remarkable spot, the ancient road or pathway from Jerusalem to Jericho, a place so perfectly accordant with ancient prophecy respecting the “messenger” who was to prepare the way of “Messiah,” that the Baptist commenced his public ministry. Did our time admit, we believe it might easily be demonstrated that it was the best position in the land to secure the ends designed.
Properly eclaircised, we do not believe the simple statements of the Evangelists in regard to the raiment or the food of John were designed to fling any mysterious veil around them, or over the minds of succeeding ages in regard to either. Laying aside the flowing and ostentatious robes of the priesthood of his day, to which order by birthright he appertained, we find him clothed in the most simple and rustic attire; and this we believe is all that the Evangelists intended to imply; and sustained on a diet equally simple, "locusts and wild honey.” To this last named article of his diet, we will now invite the attention of the reader.
To ascertain the true import of all Scripture statements is ever a most desirable object, especially in relations where erroneous views give room for the infidel to carp, or an occasion for the honest inquirer to stumble. We propose to present some reasons going to show that the “wild honey” in question was simply new gathered dates, fresh from “the field;" a wholesome, palatable and nutritious article of food; the most convenient as well as easily procured; needing no culinary art; in fact, the best possible selection for a simple diet to supply the necessities of John in the peculiarities of his habits and his circumstances; so that the statements of the Evangelists, when understood, leave no room here for cavil or distrust.
It seems not a little remarkable that the word pén, honey, does not occur in the Greek of the New Testament in more than four instances. We have in Matt. iii. 4, and in Mark i. 6, the uére áypov, “wild honey,” now under consideration, and in Rev. x. 9, 10, the simple form uénı occurs. In Luke xxiv. 42, we have penisoiou xmpíow, honeycomb full of honey. We will here suggest an inquiry, which seems naturally to arise in this place.