« AnteriorContinuar »
Savonarola, no career of Luther Must men ever go back to the life of Israel for a worthy theme! I say not that the noble in that life should be passed over, but only that the ignoble should not be treated as noble because it happens to wear the Hebrew garb. And, indeed, if men have resolved upon having a Jewish fact as the groundwork of their composition, then let them look through the pages of Hebrew history in Modern Europe, and they will find a series of heroisms which casts all the ancient doings and sufferings iặto the shade as being relatively unworthy. It may seem questionable this, to the unread man, but I state it as a fact, that the history of modern Judaism is fuller of heroic details than is the ancient, and I could name men, with the long train of noble deeds they performed, and the sufferings they endured, whose life-story is infinitely superior in nobility to any of those recorded in the Bible. So that if the man of genius needs the Hebrew as a centre, he can find plenty of the really noble, and need not paint up the unworthy to pass them off for other than they were.
Elijah is first introduced, without preface or explanation, as threatening Ahab: “ And Elijah, the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the “ Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain “ these years, but according to my word.” A remarkably bold prophecy that,
No rain but according as I shall speak or command !' and yet not to much heeded, because it comes from an unknown man. Who was Elijah ? Where was he born? What were his antecedents ? Was he an Israelite? The course adopted by modern theologians is to allow his Israelitish origin to be inferredthat is when writing in a popular form-but not so when writing for the scholar. Even Kiel acknowledges that he was not of any Hebrew tribe, and the language employed in the history, when properly read, places the matter beyond dispute. He was, as we are told, a “Tishbite from the residents of Gilead,” which proves, as Kiel admits, " that he was not a native Gileadite, but only a sojourner in the land, and points, at the same time, to his foreign origin.” Various plans have been suggested in order to get rid of this awkward fact ; towns have been created, districts have been re-christened, and various other expedients employed, but all are equally valueless, for the stubborn fact still remains, that the prophet was not of the children of Israel. So that we are left wholly in the dark as to his course of training and antecedents, and can only rest upon the fact that the people called Tishbites, like many other ancient people, had some clear ideas of the Unity of God. But Ahab is supposed to have heard this declaration, unqualified as it was with any conditions, "There shall be no rain nor dew.” How long, oh prophet, shall rain and dew cease? To this important question no answer is vouchsafed, for the time is left undetermined, save by the addition “but according to my “ word,” Now no true Israelite could believe that it rested with a mere man to determine this, because they all believed every drop of rain, and every drop of dew, to be specially sent from Heaven, under the guidance of God. As to general laws, the Israelites were ignorant of their existence. With them all was special, and they could not conceive the action of God unless as connected with immediate volition. And was there any fear went abroad amongst the people because of this bold prophecy ? Did they say one unto the other, ‘Behold, a great
evil is threatened and will come upon us !' or did they fall down upon their knees and pray that the punislıment should be turned aside ? Our old Divines gave themselves a deal of trouble to discover an answer to these and similar questions, but seeing that the record is silent, we shall be silent also, and instead of pursuing such unprofitable inquiries, we will follow the stories and travels of Elijah, and make out, if possible, what meaning lies under the record.
According to the narrative "The word of the Lord came unto Elijah, saying, “Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, “ that is before Jordan. And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and “I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there. So he went and did according “unto the word of the Lord: for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is "before Jordan. And thë ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and “ bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook,” We all remember
the famous Christmas pieces, in which the artist reproduced the ravens, black as a coal, flying through the air with meat for the prophet, who, in his state robes, rather highly coloured, sat in silence by the brook. The picture was pleasing to our childhood, but will not bear the criticism of manhood. The great question is, whether in the Hebrew, “ravens” are alluded to. The birds have made a nest for themselves in our theology, but the learned are not agreed upon the point, if they have any other than an imaginary existence. Even Dr. Kitto questioned the common reading. He says, originally, all Hebrew was written, as it still is very frequently, without the vowel marks, as is the case also in Arabic, and other oriental languages. Men, when the Hebrew was a living tongue, supplied the vowels orally, in reading that which was written without them. Usage made this easy to those to whom Hebrew was a native tongue. The differences between words of like consonants was of course brought out by the interposed vowels, just as to the common consonants grn the sense of grain, green, groan, or grin, is fixed by the vowels added. After the Hebrew text had for many ages remained without the vowel marks, or indeed without such marks being known,they were at length, in the seventh century after Christ, invented, and inserted throughout by the Jewish doctors, to fix the pronunciation, and with it the sense,--thus insuring uni. formity of interpretation, as it was feared that diversities might otherwise arise, and the true transmitted signification might be in many cases lost, through the dispersions of the people and the neglect of the language. They fixed the vowels, which determined, as it were, whether in particular places the consonants grn should mean grain or green, groan or grin,- bestowing thus a permanent written form on much which had hitherto rested in the memories of men, and had been distinguished only by oral usage. This was a great and noble work, and was for the most part executed with great integrity and sound judgment. But Christian scholars do not conceive that they are in every case bound to the decisions of the Masorites (as they are called); while some (fewer now than formerly) reject their authority altogether, and feel at liberty in every case to take the sense which agrees best with the context. This agreement both parties allow that the present vowel points do not always afford ; and the text before us is one of those on which that question is raised. Look at the Hebrew words again. The consonants of all are the same as of the word which means "raven," and may be made plural by the usual masculine termination im. But the vowels make these differences between them :-The first word (left to right) is arob, a gad-fly: the others are arab, Arabian (Gentile-Arabi, an Arabian,---plural 4r'bin, Arabians); ereb, the woof; ereb, evening; oreb, raven. Now the Masorites assigned the sense of
to the word in this case, by affixing the points which it bears, in preference to any other sense. But this, perhaps, is the last of all the senses which would occur to any one reading the Bible without the points, and without a previous knowledge of this interpretation; while, recollecting that these vowel points were added in an age when the Hebrew mind had gone astray after prodigies, and after it had given birth to the monstrous creations of the Talmud, we might expect that in such a case as this, the most marvellous interpretation would be adopted in preference to any of the others.
(To be continued.)
LONDON: PUBLISHED BY M. PATTIE, 31, PATERNOSTER Row, AND GEORGE
GLAISHER, 470, New OXFORD STREET.
OUT OF THE CLOUD;
A TALE; BY P. W. P.
THE CROSSWOOD BIBLE SOCIETY. FOREMOST among the attractions there was, in Crosswood, a Bible Society which boasted of being admirably supported; and the new rector had hardly got fairly settled down in his district before he was waited upon by a select deputation of two, consisting of Mr. Jabez Wellbeloved, the baker, and Mr. Uriah Irons, the saddler, who were empowered to solicit that he would join the committee, in the place of his predecessor in the living, and render assistance to "the good old cause of free Bible distribution. He knew of the parent, the British and Foreign Society-just knew of it, and that was all, for he had not attended its meetings; thus, when waited upon by the two active members, lie was utterly ignorant of the nature and general objects of the Crosswood branch. Confessing his ignorance, he expressed himself desirous of learning the true state of the case, and, without any hesitation, requested them to furnish reasons why he should act' in accordance with their suggestions. They were taken aback by this candour, for having been trained to believe it to be a serious evil to appear ignorant of any special subject, it had been their practice to remain silent about the topic of discussion, until, in the course of conversation, enough had been picked up, in order to enable them to speak without seriously compromising their integrity. But having recovered their breath, they entered into the requisito explanations.
It was Wellbeloved who opened the matter of answering, and Wellbeloved was an original man. He stood six feet in height, and, as lie boasted, "six feet without shoes ;' he was a man of bone and skin, not of fat or muscle. His hands were large, shoulder-of-mutton hands, and his feet were in due proportion, large and formless, but rounded somewhat like those of the elephant. His face was saturnine, long, and of an unhappy aspect, reminding the beholder of the hungry traveller who had been fortunate enough to Voi. VI. NEW SERIES, VOL. II.
find a bad fourpenny piece, just after discovering that he had lost his last half-crown. As a tradesman he was thriving; his " John-the-Baptist cracknels" had brought him in a considerable sum ; and when first he commenced to make and vend his “ St. Paul crumpets,” scarcely a respectable tea-table in the town was without them. The text, as he translated it, that, “ Being a believer, giveth a man success in this world as well as in the next,” was always upon his lips; and nobody could doubt of his having succeeded, although more than one had doubted his integrity. As an employer, he was fond of the text, “Servants obey your masters ;" for whenever he had occasion to complain of those who were in his service he quoted it, as justifying his severity, One journeyman baker, who, after excessive labour, had fallen asleep just before the time to draw a batch of " John-the-Baptist cracknels,” and left them to be destroyed, was so disgusted with the scripture quotations, that he swore he would never read the book itself, - because it is the friend of despotic masters.” In this he had doubly erred, but thousands have done the same, and from the same cause.
Jabez Wellbeloved cared little about what his men said, for he had the ear of all the better classes in the district, who always treated the complaints of his servants as rash calumnies. It is true that at one time he was somewhat shunned because on Sundays dinners were baked in his oven, but all that was forgotten when “he so ably demonstrated," as The Tomahawk said, that “through his oven being used, more persons had a good opportunity for attending church on Sundays.” This profit and piety, getting on in the world, and ensuring a seat in heaven, went hand in hand, and he was satisfied. When he put an advertisement into the paper for “a stout young man who could carry two hundred weight, and walk with the fear of God before his eyes,” it was highly gratifying to the religious public; who thought more of the " walking in fear of God," than they did of the two hundred weight breaking the man's back. It was as a Bible man that he transacted his business when there was any opening in his favour, but when the text proved to be against him, he was clever in giving it a new meaning-quite as much so as they are who so loudly declaim against “Sabbath breaking," while their own cooks and other servants are slaving away to prepare for the Sabbath party. Frequently his practice was very smart, but who could doubt the correctness of
any course of conduct pursued by such a pattern of the “Bible Christian ?” Some had imagined that his danger lay in being proud of his religious character, but there are grave reasons for doubting if they did not mistake what it was of which he was proud. Lester, however, was not in error in supposing that he was especially proud of being called upon to furnish a live rector with information about Bible Societies.
Sir,” said he, and in his deepest chesť tones, which were somewhat sepulchral, “Sir, I am but a poor vessel of the Lord's to be called upon to pour forth such information, but, in season and out of season, I am ready, and I dare not refuse to do my best in this noble cause. The fact is, that it is our intention to flood the world with copies of the Word. Through spreading far and wide the Power of God, we intend to destroy the usurped authority of Satan. It is the intention of our glorious Society to have the Scriptures translated into every language and every tongue; and we know that the Lord will aid us; yes, despite the attempts and machinations of the Wicked One, who is assisted by the evil-minded among men, the Lord will bless our attempt to get a copy of His Word into every cottage in the land.”
This was all uttered with a peculiar nasal twang, that tickled the risible faculties of Lester, who restrained himself, but was in doubt whether it was a knave or a maniac with whom he was dealing. Anxious to bring the interview to a speedy conclusion, and fearful that his visitor might have a large stock of the same inconclusive talk to get through, he interrupted him, to ask if that was the sole aim of the Society. " Because,” he added, “if that is its only aim, I fear it will be impossible for me to join the committee."
“Impossible !” ejaculated the astonished baker. Surely my ears have deceived me. What else is there we can do which is so likely to help the poor? To give a man a Bible is to feed him with spiritual food, for it will lead him on the high road to heaven. In the language of the poet, I may justly say
‘Holy Bible, book divine;
Precious treasure, thou art mine;' for it is my treasure ; and it being but a Christian duty to desire others to possess the happiness I enjoy, I am labouring to get for all my fellow-sinners a copy of the Holy Word. There have been times when it has been meat and drink to me; and I was told by a City Missionary of a man who always read that blessed book to his children when they had had no dinner. It allayed the pangs of hunger, and made them forget their wants. The late rector, when he visited the sick poor, always read to them that part of Job where it shows how much he had lost and how much he had suffered, and yet would not complain. Ah, Job was a dear good man, but sadly troubled by his sons and daughters and the devil. I often think that if I were in the same position as he was, I should become impatient, and be tempted to complain of the miseries I had to endure. But he was supported in his trials, and thus could pass through the fire without being singed.
The latter remark rendered it perfectly clear that Wellbeloved did not read, and, indeed, was but poorly informed about the book he was so loudly vaunting. He had taken the character of Job upon trust, calling him a patient man, but clearly without attempting to understand what the term "patience” meant. He who curses the day on which he was born, as Job did, and in no measured phrases, may be a patient man, but in that case the meaning of the term must be the reverse of what is generally intended. Job was the opposite of patient, but Jabez did not trouble himself to discover the truth of popular ideas, all he seemed to be influenced by was the fact that they were popular. There can be no doubt if Crosswood had abounded with "unbelievers," and he could have got their custom, he, too, would have been a rigid unbeliever. Not that he was one of those who could have deliberately turned round for the sake of pecuniary profit to maintain the opposite of what he believed to be true, for somehow he managed to keep a conscience; but he was easily convinced whenever self-interest held the light and unfolded the argument. Once, when sitting upon a jury, and listening to the counsel for the prosecution, he believed the prisoner-charged with stealing a warming-pan and two flat irons—to be one of the greatest scoundrels upon
the face of the earth ; when counsel for the defence began to warm with his subject, Jabez began to melt, and was not long in perceiving that the man who stood at the bar was an injured innocent of the purest water, The cross-examination of the defendant's witnesses shook him again, and then, after the judge had summed up, he stated to a brother juryman, that he could neither make up his mind to believe the warming-pan had been stolen, that there were any flat irons to steal, or that the prisoner could condescend to commit the crime of stealing. But when the remaining eleven