« السابقةمتابعة »
THE MOUNTAINS OF SCRIPTURE.
(Continued from page 139.)
BETWEEN the two gulfs of Suez and Akabah a long peninsula projects into the Red Sea. In the centre rises the terrific chine of granite, a wilderness of rocks, unblest by verdure or water, into two peaks, one of which, HOREB, at sunrise, is covered with the shadows of its taller fellow, SINAI. Beneath the country looks as though a sea of lava, running mountains high, had been petrified on the instant into stone. On the mountains are still the marks of the dread visitation, the symbols of the fire and earthquake, the awful emblems which told that JEHOVAH there made known His presence: He Who afterwards in the cloudy pillar by day and the nightly lamp of flame led the Hebrew camp, which couched in the valleys below, around the tutelary ark. A land the fit habitation for a giantrace: within sight of which the chief of mourners, the morning star of song, poured forth the sublime story of the sorrows of the man of Uz.
Very different from the wild grandeur of the waste of Horeb, is the excellency of CARMEL: yet both are identified with the history of the wonder-working Elias. About ten miles from the strong fortress of S. Jean d'Acre, memorable in the annals of the Crusader and the chronicles of the British Navy, extending for nearly eight miles along the coasts, from the plains of Esdraelon, Mount Carmel terminates in a cape, beetling over the blue waters of the Mediterranean, and forming the southern horn of the bay of Acre, the hoary sentinel of the land of Israel. It soars to the height of 1,500 feet, in tall cliffs of the whitest stone. That ancient river, the
Kishon, flows to the eastward, a narrow valley spreads round it towards the west. Fountains and rivulets send down their grateful cool streams: the oak, the pine, the few cedars, the wild vine and the olive cluster round its venerable summit, and on its grassy slopes the highland pastures are as rich as when they fed the herds of the churlish Nabal; else, where forests grew thick of yore, all is bare and desolate. In its caves the priests of the LORD where hid by Obadiah: on its tall crest the lonely prophet offered his sacrifice and called down the mystic fire to consume the offering: there too he stood watching the cloud rising out of the sea, which brought gladness and plenty to the famished land of guilty Ahab. Thence called to Horeb the fore-runner of the Baptist, the Tishbite in his rude garb,-who rebuked that miserable king, who raised the dead child of the widow of Sarepta, and was supported for forty days by miraculous visitants;-found refuge in the day of his necessity. He had prayed for death, to rest from his labours, and gone to wear out the weary remains of life in the lonely cave of Horeb. There he heard a voice, but not that of man, asking why he was come thither and had left the abodes of men, and in his desolation he answered, it was because he had slain the false prophets of Baal, and been jealous for the honour of the true GOD, and he had fled thither from the rage of Jezebel who sought his destruction. Then he was bidden to take his stand, and behold, and he should be told what he should do, and what should befal him. A strong wind rent the rocks; and passed in fury by him: an earthquake heaved the trembling mountain: a burning fire swept before his face; and then amid the deathlike silence, a still small Voice proclaimed the presence of One, a blessed Comforter, Who spake words of great joy, and he wrapped his face in a mantle, and adored. Nor was it long-each intervening day a blessed step towards eternity-before
his expected summons came, but not as he looked for it. Another Enoch, in the sight of his servant Elisha, he was rapt up in the chariot and on horses of fire, translated from this present world, on wings of wind amid the clouds and thick darkness, which surround the majesty of GOD; and his mantle and a double portion fell on him who loved him.
Never was a more solemn battle-field than the mountains of GILBOA: a long ridge, eighteen hundred feet above the level of the Jordan, whose plain it bounds. The wandering shepherd alone feeds his scanty flocks along its sides. Hundreds of years since two armies were set in battle array on those wild heights: the Philistines flushed with triumph threatening the utter overthrow of the doomed King of Israel, who fought against them. Tall above the common stature of his people, with a princely and commanding air, anointed by the special unction of heaven, no monarch was ever raised to the throne, with such hope of glory and honour as Saul the son of Kish. But his power and station were not above the influence of a jealousy that ripened into unrelenting thirst for revenge. The evil spirit of hate became dominant. At the life of him whose lyre was mightier than his future throne, and charmed the foul fiend to depart, he aimed a weapon in his rage. That noble faithful servant spared him when in his power, but no devotion could touch his hardened heart to generosity, or make him yearn to the friend of his child. In the gloomy cabin of the witch of Endor, appealing to forbidden arts of necromancy, fasting in utter grief, disguised as on a sinful errand, despairing of God's providence, Saul sought oracles from the lips of the dead withheld by Him who only knoweth times. Before the weird woman rose the figure of a veiled prophet, wrapt in a priestly robe, that bore the likeness of the aged Samuel, whose prayers for
his restoration only ended with his dying breath. And he was called by the awful spirit that rose from the earth, according to his royal name, and when he, trembling and bowed to the ground, demanded his fate, was bidden to know, that the LORD was his enemy, for his obstinacy and rebellion; and on the morrow he and his sons should be with that dread form, in the world from which no habitant comes back. Through the gloom he returned to his host and on the next morning, beheld his three sons fall beneath the swords of his enemies; sore wounded, he withdrew from the fearful scene of massacre, while his chosen warriors lay strewn along the hills, a prey to the ruthless Philistine: that day he died by his own hand, his royal crown on his head, and his kingly bracelet on his arm; and ere night, he was spoiled of robe and armour; his sword and mail hung in the temple of Ashtaroth, and his headless body fastened on the wall of Bethshan. But there was a mourner for his Jonathan, one who forgot his new estate, the heir-loom of dead Saul, in bitter lamentation. In his passionate burst of grief, he wept the beauty of Israel slain on Gilboa's high places, the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! he would no daughter of the Philistine in Gath or Ascalon should sing their triumph over him who lay beneath the trees of Jabesh; the maidens of Israel should make their dirge for the brave soldier, at whose death no dew or healing rain should come down on the hill of his overthrow and he went up to his chamber and wept, and as he went, thus he said, Sweet in thy life, in death may we not be divided; I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan, very pleasant hast thou been unto me! thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of woman! would GOD I had died for thee, my brother.
The time was already come that upon the mountains beautiful should be the feet of the heralds of glad tidings: that the Rock should be revealed; the stone not cut by hands: the mountain that should fill the whole earth. In the Hill-Country of Judah meek Elizabeth had hailed the blessed mother of her LORD unborn; on the mountain of Benedictions the adorable Son of Mary had proclaimed the beatitude of His elect; on the mountain of Quarantania had been tempted by the prince of devils, and beheld all the kingdoms of the earth and their glory, and worsted the baffled Satan; on the mountain of Nazareth escaped the malice of His countrymen: but His chiefest glory was manifested on TABOR.
On one side of the spacious plain of the Esdraelon, far away from any other eminence, this mountain rises in solitary majesty, in shape like a cone, rugged and steep, but, except on the southward, clad with luxuriant woods and enamelled with flowers. On the summit which is reached after a winding and toilsome ascent of more than an hour long, is a small oval level, commanding a magnificent landscape. On the north are the mountain of Beatitudes, and the heights of Gilboa; more to the eastward the tall Hermon, soaring over Nain and Endor: to the south are the mountains of Samaria. Carmel leads the eye to the shield-like expanse of the Mediterranean, beneath the snow-capped hills of a spur of the Libanus may be seen the bright lake of Galilee, glittering in the sun. The tribe of Issachar rejoiced in its tents in the valley beneath there Barak and Deborah sang their song of triumph over the rout of Sisera; there Josiah fell in battle before the armies of Necho; there Vespasian reviewed his legions: there the swarthy Assyrians of Nebuchadnezzar, and the fair-haired Franks of Napoleon made their camp. The Egyptian and Persian, Turk and Arab, Cru