« PreviousContinue »
by the extent, the fulness, and the depth of the living interests, human and spiritual, which were, in the course of ages, gathered round it, and of which it remains the centre, even unto this day. It is this which forms the great prerogative and distinction of Jerusalem beyond all other cities. Babylon, Nineveh, Thebes, Athens, Rome, have long since become things of the past ; and there is nothing of the present-nothing living-in the interest with which we regard the few remains of their glory that time has spared. But Jerusalem, which has scarcely a fragment left belonging to the times of its ancient renownnot so much thereof as the most extinct of those other cities-is to us more deeply interesting than they are of the past ; and yet not of the past only, but also of the present; and not only of the present, but of the future-in virtue of its having been presented to us as the symbol of those hopes under which all true believers in our Lord Jesus Christ trust to become citizens of “the new Jerusalem, that cometh down from heaven."
It is not the want of early and authentic records which leaves in obscurity the origin of this famous city. The Scripture accounts reach back far beyond the age in which Jeru
salem can be supposed to have been founded ; and it is to these inspired records that we owe all our knowledge concerning the foundation of cities still more ancient, and, indeed, the most ancient in the world—such as Nineveh, Rehoboth, Calneh, Erech, and Babylon. Even with Palestine, the country in which Jerusalem is found, the Scriptures make us acquainted, and name many of its towns, at a time close upon the most remote of the dates which have been given to the foundation of that city. The question therefore arises, whether the town may not, in these ancient accounts, be mentioned by some other name than that which it in ensuing ages acquired; or whether, if it then existed at all, it was not of too little importance, or too much out of the way of the patriarchs, to obtain particular notice.
Now, if we examine with attention the journeys of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, we shall find them passing to and fro, north and south, over a district in the centre of which the site of Jerusalem stood, and by routes which must have led them through it, over it, or close by it. They go from Shechem, or from Bethel, in the country north of that site, to Bethlehem, Hebron, or Beersheba, on its south; and then
they return again to the northern district. In the course of such journeys, the names of several places which we are still able to identify, do
but not that of Jerusalem, or of any name which can be identified with it, unless, as is generally supposed, it be the same with the Salem where king Melchizedek came forth to meet Abraham, when he returned from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him. Gen. xiv. 17–20; Heb. vii. 1. That it was the same is a general and very ancient opinion, which seems to derive support from Psalm lxxvi. 2, where the name Salem is certainly applied to Jerusalem. That passage is not, however, conclusive ; as it may there be no more than a poetical contraction of Jerusalem, such contractions not being unusual in the Hebrew. Against the identity of Jerusalem with Melchizedek's Salem, may also be urged not only the consideration which has been just advanced, tending to show that no town, or at least no town of so much importance as the Salem of Melchizedek, existed here in the time of the patriarchs ; but there is some circumstantial evidence going to show that the “ mount,” in “ the land of Moriah," to which Abraham, at the Divine command, proceeded, with the intention of
offering up his son Isaac, and which all allow to have been the mount Moriah of Jerusalem, on which Solomon's temple was eventually built, was at that time a solitary place, which is not consistent with the notion that a town then stood there, or close by. On these and other grounds, many careful inquirers venture to think, that Jerusalem had not, under any name, an existence in the time of the patriarchs; and against the authority of tradition they produce another tradition, mentioned by Jerome and others, which fixes the site of Melchizedek's Salem far more to the north, near the Jordan, and in the neighbourhood of the place afterwards known as Bethshean, and, still later, as Scythopolis. We must, therefore, be content to remain in some doubt whether the famous city of Jerusalem did, or did not, exist under the name of Salem,
other name in the time of the patriarchs.
It would certainly be pleasant to think that Abraham beheld, in its comparatively infant state, that town which was destined, in the designs of God's providence, to become the high metropolis in which his descendants reigned. But if it remain doubtful whether we may with
unshaken confidence allow ourselves this satisfaction, there is another still better, in which we may freely indulge. If we could be certain that Jerusalem was the Salem of Melchizedek, and existed in the time of Abraham, it would be gratifying to know that the city, destined in future time to become the great centre of the true faith, was even then ruled by one distinguished as a priest of the most high God :" but we should still want the means of connecting it directly with the history of Abraham, for it was not at Salem that the interview between Melchizedek and Abraham occurred ; but the king of that place had joined other kings, who went forth to greet the patriarch when he returned triumphant from the pursuit and defeat of Chedorlaomer. The interview took place in “ the King's Dale,” the situation of which is not determinable by any scriptural authority ; but which is supposed by some to have lain north of Jerusalem, while it is placed by others near the Jordan. Still the great event in the history of Abrahamthe purposed offering up of his son upon mount Moriah-does, in any case, afford us the opportunity of connecting the history of the great father of the Hebrew people with the site in