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In one respect the sight and description of Eastern countries lends itself more than that of any other country to this use of historical geography. Doubtless there are many alterations, some of considerable importance, in the vegetation, the climate, the general aspect of these countries, since the days of the Old and New Testament? But, on the other hand, it is one of the great charms of Eastern travelling, that the framework of life, of customs, of manners, even of dress and speech, is still substantially the same as it was ages ago. Something, of course, in representing the scenes of the New Testament, must be sought from Roman and Grecian usages now extinct; but the Bedouin tents are still the faithful reproduction of the outward life of the patriarchs; the vineyards, the corn-fields, the houses, the wells of Syria still retain the outward imagery of the teaching of Christ and the Apostles; and thus the traveller's mere passing glances at Oriental customs, much more the detailed accounts of Lane and of Burckhardt, contain a mine of Scriptural illustration which it is an unworthy superstition either to despise or to fear 2.
VI. Finally, there is an interest attaching to sacred geoPoetical graphy hard to be expressed in words, but which verbial use cannot be altogether overlooked, and is brought graphy. home with especial force to the Eastern traveller. It has been well observed that the poetical character of many
of the geo
" See Chapters I. II. and X.
? Although the nature of the work has not permitted me to enlarge on this source
of knowledge, I cannot refrain from acknowledging the great advantage I derived from the opportunitics of constant intercourse with at
least one genuine Oriental—in the per. son of our faithful and intelligent Arah servant, Mohammed of Ghizeh.
3 Milman's History of Christianity, vol. i. p. 131. “This language of poetic incident, and, if I may so speak, of imagery
was the vernacular
events in the Sacred History, so far from being an argument against their Divine origin, is a striking proof of that universal Providence by which the religion of the Bible was adapted to suit, not one class of mind only, but many in every age of time. As with the history, so also is it with the geography. Not only has the long course of ages invested the prospects and scenes of the Holy Land with poetical and moral associations, but these scenes accommodate themselves to such bolical adaptation with singular facility. Far more closely as in some respects the Greek and Italian geography intertwines itself with the history and religion of the two countries; yet, when we take the proverbs, the apologues, the types, furnished even by Parnassus and Helicon, the Capitol and the Rubicon, they bear no comparison with the appropriateness of the corresponding figures and phrases borrowed from Arabian and Syrian topography, even irrespectively of the wider diffusion given them by our greater familiarity with the Scriptures. The passage of the Red Sea—the murmurings at the "waters of strife "_"the wilderness” of life -- the “Rock of Ages ”Mount Sinai and its terrors—the view from Pisgah— the passage of the Jordan—the rock of Zion, the fountain of Siloa, and the shades of Gehenna-the lake of Gennesareth, with its storms, its waves, and its fishermen,-are well-known instances in which the local features of the Holy Lands have naturally become the household imagery of Christendom.
In fact, the whole journey, as it is usually taken by modern
travellers, presents the course of the history in a living parable before us, to which no other journey or pilgrimage can present any parallel. In its successive scenes, as in a mirror, is faithfully reflected the dramatic unity and progress which so remarkably characterises the Sacred History. The primeval world of Egypt is with us, as with the Israelites, the startingpoint and the contrast of all that follows. With us, as with them, the Pyramids recede, and the Desert begins, and the wilderness melts into the hills of Palestine, and Jerusalem is the climax of the long ascent, and the consummation of the Gospel History presents itself locally, no less than historically, as the end of the Law and the Prophets. And with us, too, as the glory of Palestine fades away into the common day of Asia Minor and the Bosporus, gleams of the Eastern light still continue, first in the Apostolical labours, then, fainter and dimmer, in the beginnings of ecclesiastical history,—Ephesus, Nicæa, Chalcedon, Constantinople; and the life of European scenery
and of Western Christendom completes by its contrast what Egypt and the East had begun. In regular succession at “sundry” and “divers" places, no less than “in sundry times and divers manners "“God spake in times past to our fathers;" and the local, as well as the historical diversity, is necessary to the ideal richness and completeness of the whole.
These are the main points, which, in a greater or less degree, are brought out in the following pages. One observation must be made in conclusion. A work of this kind, in which the local description is severed from the history, must necessarily bear an incoherent and fragmentary aspect. It is the frame
without the picture-the skeleton without the flesh--the stage without the drama. The materials of a knowledge of the East are worthily turned to their highest and most fitting use only when employed for a complete representation of the Sacred History as drawn out in its full proportions from the condensed and scattered records of the Scriptures. Without in the least degree overloading the narrative with illustrations which do not belong to it, there is hardly any limit to the legitimate advantage derived by the historical and theological student from even such a transient glimpse of Eastern life and scenery, as that which forms the basis of the present volume. It is not so much in express elucidation that this additional power is felt, as in the incidental turn of a sentence-in the appreciation of the contrast between the East and West, of the atmosphere and the character of the people and the country—in the new knowledge of expressions, of images, of tones, and countenances, which in a merely abstract work like this can have no place. So to delineate the outward events of the Old and New Testament, as that they should come home with a new power to those who by long familiarity have almost ceased to regard them as historical truth at all, so to bring out their inward spirit that the more complete realisation of their outward form should not degrade but exalt the faith of which they are the vehicle,—this would indeed be an object worthy of all the labour which travellers and theologians have ever bestowed on
The present work is but a humble contribution towards this great end.
It is an attempt to leave on record, however imperfectly, and under necessary disadvantages, some at least of the impressions, whilst still fresh in the memory, which it seemed ungrateful to allow wholly to pass away. Its object will be accomplished, if it brings away one with new interest to the threshold of the Divine story, which has many approaches, as it has many mansions; which the more it is explored the more it reveals; which, even when seen in close connection with the local associations from which its spirit holds most aloof, is still capable of imparting to them, and of receiving from them a poetry, a life, an instruction, such as has fallen to the lot of no other history in the world.