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MOUNT OF OLIVES.
some probability to the latter opinion is, the considerable distance of this point from the place of the ascension. It is at least three hundred paces.
The first time that I explored the Mount of Olives, on proceeding eastward amidst Turkish sepulchres, I perceived all at once the Dead Sea, the plain of Jericho, the Jordan, and beyond it the mountains of Arabia Petræa. Though nearly seven leagues distant, that plain, studded here and there with verdure, that sea, that river, appeared to be at my feet.
What a view! what recollections it awakened in my mind! how impatient it made me to see those objects nearer ! But then, again, how much stronger became my fears that I should not be able to accomplish this purpose ! I could not take my eyes from the scene before me : I could distinctly discern the Jordan, though it flows in a very deep bed : several fires were burning on the resinous shores of the Dead Sea.
The weather was fine ; I felt well : for a long time I had not been so happy. I passed several hours, with the telescope in my hand, on the summit of the hill; and I can declare that I shall reckon them among the most agreeable of my life.
Going back, as if to return to Jerusalem, but still on the summit of the hill, you come to a mosque, on the site of which formerly stood a most magnificent church, erected by St. Helena, on the very spot where Christ ascended to heaven after his resurrection. This mosque, which threatens to fall to ruin, is surrounded by wretched houses inhabited by Turks.
In the centre, in a kind of chapel, is to be seen the print
MOSQUE OF THE ASCENSION.
left in the rock by the left foot of our Saviour, at the moment of rising from the earth and ascending to heaven. It is asserted that formerly the print of the right foot also was to be seen there, but that the Turks removed and buried it, for the purpose of conveying it afterwards to the mosque of the Temple. The very scanty information that I obtained does not permit me to say any thing positive on this subject,
As for the print of the left foot, it is so distinct as to leave no doubt of its existence, though it is somewhat worn by the innumerable kisses which the pilgrims have for so many ages been in the habit of giving it, and perhaps also by some petty thefts which strict vigilance has not always been able to prevent.
This part of the rock, now enclosed with masonry, is committed to the custody of a santon, a kind of Turkish monk, who is enjoined to oppose the commission of the slightest injury. This santon is provided with small square stones, with which he touches the foot-mark of our Lord, and which he then offers to the pilgrims, who give him a trifle in exchange.
To judge from the direction of the foot, our Saviour, when he ascended to heaven, must have had his face turned towards the north.
The Catholics, the Greeks, and the Armenians, having previously purified this mosque, hold mass in it on Ascension-day.
Descending the Mount of Olives on the opposite side to that on which I went up, you come, at the distance of eighty paces from the mosque, to an ancient chapel, where Jesus taught his disciples the Lord's Prayer; that
admirable prayer which authorises the Christian, imbued by the salutary precepts, and formed by the instruction of his Saviour himself, to venture to give to God the fond name of father; to consider himself as his child ; and to solicit with confidence of his omnipotent paternity those favours and blessings which can alone impart the portion of happiness that man is permitted to enjoy on earth, and ensure to him the immense and everlasting felicity of the life to come.
Farther on are the ruins of a kind of reservoir, remarkable for twelve arcades or vaulted niches, beneath which one person only can enter at a time. Here it was, according to tradition, that the apostles, before they separated, composed together that symbol by which the believers were to recognize one another. On reflecting that the twelve poor fishermen, with whom this symbol originated, had met in this place, perhaps on the very spot where I stood ; that there, as in their first temple, they had begun solitarily to recite that creed which now resounds in all the temples in the world - I sank upon my knees before the humble ruins which I beheld. “I believe in God,” I exclaimed, and, in the effusion of my soul, I continued to recite the apostolic profession of faith.
I shall not tell you, my dear Charles, what absolutely new feelings were excited in me, by the words of that august symbol, as they escaped from my lips or rather from my heart : never had I uttered them with such deep emotion.
But I must communicate to you some of the thoughts which thronged into my mind, and the meditation on which completely engrossed me for some time. To me that creed was a magnificent and ineffable
marvel — that creed, the work of a few ignorant and unlettered men — that creed, which, issuing from a corner of Judea, spread throughout the whole world, and became the symbol not only of nations, but likewise of all the truly great and still more of all the really virtuous men who have since existed, imparting to the most timid courage and strength to defy persecution and death, and every where triumphing over tyrants as well as philosophers, over sophistries as well as scaffolds. But what produced in me a much more lively impression, because the thought had not yet occurred to me, was that here, on this spot, the creed no longer appeared to me vaguely as containing a mere profession of religious faith, but as comprehending also a real deposition of witnesses attesting the certainty of the facts on which the whole doctrine of salvation rests. I considered that, by a particular arrangement of Providence, this testimony was constant, perpetual, fixed, amidst nations all the generations of which are hurried by a rapid movement to the grave ; and I admired with a sort of extacy the light which infinite wisdom has been pleased to shed around its works, that the truth may appear more striking to the well disposed, and that its brightness may disconcert the wicked. Most assuredly, in order to prove the facts of the gospel history, it ought to suffice that they had been publicly attested on the very spots where they took place, that they had been confirmed by witnesses in presence of the chiefs of the people and the magistrates, and sealed by them with their blood. What would become of the certainty of numberless facts, which no one doubts, if those who saw them, who have related them,
TOMBS OF THE PROPHETS.
could not have gained credit for them but by the sacrifice of their lives! Even this, however, was not enough in the merciful designs of the divine wisdom : it determined not only that the facts of the birth, passion, crucifixion, death, and resurrection of our Saviour should be recorded in the creed, but that this testimony of the Apostles should be reinforced by the testimony of all the contemporary Christians; and that, expressed by the same symbol, it should be repeated from age to age, by all those who should become members of the church of Christ : that at all times and in all places, in persecution as in the lap of peace, in private meetings as in public, in the bosom of families as in the temples, it should not cease for a day to be proclaimed: so that, from the united voices of the whole Christian world, there should result but one single and only testimony, connected, if I may be allowed the expression, by the first link with the very facts to which it relates; and by the last, with that glorious and triumphant cross, with which, on the awful day, Jesus shall again appear upon earth, to judge both those who have believed and those who shall have refused to believe.
A hundred paces from the spot which suggested these grave reflexions, you come to some grottoes, called, I know not why, the Tombs of the Prophets. Near these, on a rapid and stony descent, which continues to the foot of the Mount of Olives, you see the remains of some buildings near a rock called the Rock of the Prediction, because it was here that Jesus, surveying Jerusalem, wept over it, saying :
“If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy