John L. (John Lawson) Stoddard.

John L. Stoddard's lectures : illustrated and embellished with views of the world's famous places and people, being the identical discourses delivered during the past eighteen years under the title of the Stoddard lectures (Volume 2) online

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Online LibraryJohn L. (John Lawson) StoddardJohn L. Stoddard's lectures : illustrated and embellished with views of the world's famous places and people, being the identical discourses delivered during the past eighteen years under the title of the Stoddard lectures (Volume 2) → online text (page 8 of 12)
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their presents to

the new-born

child. This is

marked by a

marble slab, and

is surmounted by a painting representing the scene. Near

this is the spot where the horses of the Magi were fed ; the

place where Joseph stood ; the place where the ass was

tethered; the "Milk Grotto," where Mary nursed her child;

and even the locality where twelve thousand of the infants

slain by the order of Herod were buried. But these of

course do not vie in sanctity with the spot where it is said

the Saviour of the world was born. That is called the

Chapel of the Nativity, and was evidently once a cave.

Believers in its authenticity maintain that it was at that

time used as a stable, and was situated below the little

caravansary, from which the Holy Family was excluded

because "there was no room for them in the inn.' Its walls




are now of marble, and a silver star in the pavement marks
the place where the manger stood.

There is this to be said in favor of the genuineness of the
site of the Nativity: the tradition in regard to it is far
older than the time of Constantine and his mother, Helena.

Early in the second cen-
tury the place of Jesus'
birth was affirmed to have
been a cave close to the
village of Bethlehem. The
Empress Helena caused a
church to be erected
there, some portions of
which still exist. Hence,
it is the oldest existing
Christian sanctuary in the
world; and it is a touching
fact that the Crusader,
Baldwin I, when made King
of Jerusalem, refused to
wear a crown of gold in
the city where his Lord
and Master had been crowned with thorns, and therefore
selected this church in Bethlehem, rather than Jerusalem,
for the place of his coronation.

Close by the Chapel of the Nativity, and covered by the
roof which canopies them both, is the tomb of Saint Jerome;
and beside it we were shown the cavern in which that vener-
able father labored and prayed for more than thirty years.
Here he achieved his immortal work of translating the Scrip-
tures into the Latin tongue, and here also he wrote no less
than one hundred and fifty epistles, sixteen theological
treatises, and thirteen volumes of commentaries. And
finally, here occurred the touching incident which has been




immortalized by Domenichino, in his painting entitled " The
Last Communion of Saint Jerome."

From Bethlehem our route led on, a few miles farther, to
Hebron, the earliest seat of civilization in Palestine, and one
of the oldest cities in the world. Here Abraham resided;
here he received the three celestial visitors, and here his tomb


is to this day. Hebron was also David's capital for the first
seven years of his reign, till he transferred the seat of his
sovereignty to Jerusalem. It is, accordingly, gratifying to
find in a town of such antiquity some relics of the past whose
genuineness cannot be questioned, although their age sur-
passes that of all the other genuine memorials of Bible char-
acters. To see these with safety, as soon as we arrived in
Hebron, we made arrangements with the chief of the com-
munity, Sheik Hamza. He did not look like one possess-
ing much authority. In one hand he held a pipe to solace
his old age, while with the other he grasped a knotty stick,



which served him in turn as a sceptre and an instrument of
discipline. The favor of this Sheik is, nevertheless, quite
essential, for the Arabs of the place are noted for their
hatred of all unbelievers; and the old spirit of intolerance,
which once prevailed throughout the whole of Palestine and

made the entrance of a
Christian to the Mosque of
Omar an impossibility, still
burns in Hebron bosoms
undiminished by the lapse
of years.

Properly protected, how-
ever, we made our way
without difficulty to one of
Hebron's famous relics,
its ancient reservoir of
water, constructed of huge
blocks of carefully hewn
stone. Accustomed, as we
were, to find fictitious
names and dates assigned
to almost everything in Palestine, it startled us to learn that
this reservoir was probably built in the time of David, three
thousand years ago. Such, at all events, is the opinion of
most archaeologists; for cisterns like this and the celebrated
"Pools of Solomon" were absolutely essential even in earliest
times in a land like Palestine. Built with such solidity, they
could last for centuries, and repairs, when needed, could be
easily made without disturbing the original site. The Bible
states that David put to death within this town the murderers
of the son of Saul, and hung their lifeless bodies by the
Pool of Hebron. It may, therefore, be surmised that, since
no trace of other ruined reservoirs has been discovered any-
where in this vicinity, this is the identical basin described.




But of far greater interest than this Pool of Hebron is an
object now enclosed by the massive walls of a Moslem
mosque. The Christian traveler may survey their exterior
at a respectful distance, but if he places the slightest value
on his life, he should not try to enter the enclosure. Be-
neath the mosque, which these high battlements surround,
there is a cave. It is the cavern of Machpelah, which Abra-
ham, on the death of his wife Sarah, purchased as a family
burial-place, nearly four thousand years ago. Here he him-
self was also buried ; and, later on, within this cave were laid


to rest Isaac and Jacob, with their wives, Jacob's body
having, at the patriarch's request, been brought from Egypt
to be placed here by the side of his wife, Leah. Moreover,
since it was embalmed, after the manner of Egyptians, his
features probably remain well-nigh intact to-day.



It is humiliating to admit that neither Jew nor Christian
can to-day stand beside the tombs in which repose the found-
ers of the Hebrew nation. But such is the fact; for the
Mohammedans guard with jealous reverence the tomb of
Abraham, for whom their name is "The Friend of God."

It is a singular
that such a title
should be given
him by Mos-
lems, for in the
Epistle of St.
James we re. id
these words:
"Abraham be-
lieved God, and
it was imputed
unto him for
and he was
called the Friend of God." Of course, no illustrations of
the tombs themselves can be obtained so long as such restric-
tions exist; but one may view at least the entrance to the
patriarch's sepulchre, guarded by solid masonry and iron bars.
By a special firman from Constantinople, in 1862, the Prince
of Wales was admitted here, attended by Dean Stanley. In
1866, a similar favor was accorded to the Marquis of Bute;
and three years after to the Crown Prince of Prussia, the late
Emperor Frederick. One can imagine, therefore, what
chance there is for ordinary tourists to enter.

According to the accounts of those who came here with
these princely visitors, the tombs of Abraham, Sarah, Jacob,
and Leah are in separate apartments lined with marble and
approached through silver gates. The place of honor, in the





centre, is occupied by the tomb of Isaac. Between the
tombs of Abraham and Isaac is a circular opening; and it
appears probable that the structures which are seen are
merely modern cenotaphs, the actual sepulchres being in a
subterranean cavern at a still lower depth. The floor of the
enclosure is covered to some depth with pieces of paper,
which represent the accumulations of centuries. They are
written petitions to Abraham, which pious Moslems have
dropped through an aperture above.

"Is this the real cave of Machpelah?" we inquired.
"Can this be the actual tomb which Abraham acquired forty
centuries ago, with all the formality and care revealed in the
description given of that bargain in the Book of Genesis?"
It seems at first incredi-
ble; but there are many
arguments in favor of its
genuineness. In the first
place, a tomb like this,
cut from the solid rock,
would (if not purposely
destroyed) endure as long
as the surrounding hills.
Again, since Abraham
was a distinguished man,
and a powerful leader at
the time of his death, it
was at once revered as an
especially sacred burial-
place, the sanctity of
which increased as time went by. Neither Jews nor Chris-
tians, Arabs nor Crusaders, have ever shown the slightest
disposition to disturb the graves of those illustrious dead.
In fact, the evidence is so remarkably complete that few, if
any, are disposed to question it. Undoubtedly, the time




will come when the exclusion practiced by the Moslems
will be overruled, and this extraordinary relic of antiquity
will be thrown open to Christian eyes and thoroughly
explored. But even now, the fact that Hebron holds the
cavern of Machpelah, in which four thousand years ago were

buried the great patriarchs of the
Hebrew race, gives to this region
of Judaea a unique importance and
undying fame.

Our visit to Hebron naturally
recalled to us that lovely painting
in the Dresden Gallery, portraying
Hagar driven from the house of
Abraham, and going forth with her
child Ishmael to live and die in
exile. How little did the patriarch
think, when he reluctantly con-
sented to that sad expulsion, that
the descendants of the outcast
Hagar would for a thousand years
exclude the offspring of her rival

Sarah from all access to his tomb ! Yet so it is. The rock-
hewn sepulchres of Abraham and Isaac have been for cen-
turies protected by the sons of Ishmael.

Filled with the memories awakened by the patriarchs'
graves, on our return to Jerusalem we visited one of its most
impressive features. It is an ancient wall, consisting largely
of huge blocks of stone, which once formed part of the old
Hebrew temple. This to the Jews is by far the most sacred
portion of the city. What matters it to them that Christian
sects wrangle or worship round the Holy Sepulchre, or that
Mohammedans kneel in prayer within the Mosque of Omar?
They know that these colossal fragments of the time of Solo-
mon antedate by a thousand years even the oldest of all such



memorials. Here, every Friday, century after century, the
wretched exiles from Mount Zion have come to kiss or bathe
with tears these relics of their former glory. Now they are
free to do so ; but in past ages they have paid enormous sums
to their oppressors for this miserable privilege.

It is a most pathetic instance of a nation's grief. No one
who has a particle of sympathy with human sorrow can gaze
upon that sight without emo-
tion. For, while some read
aloud from the Old Testa-
ment words which describe the
splendor of the Hebrew mon-
archy, others moan and sob,
and beat their trembling hands
against the wall. Their grief
is evidently genuine, for I saw
tears on many a cheek, espe-
cially when such plaintive pas-
sages from Holy Writ as these
were read: "How hath the
Lord cast down from heaven
to earth the beauty of Israel !
How is the gold become dim
and the most fine gold changed !
Our holy and our beautiful house, wherein our fathers
praised Thee, is burned up with fire. We are become a scorn
and a derision to our neighbors. Oh, Lord ! behold, we are
Thy people. Remember not our iniquity forever. Oh ! let
Thy tender mercies speedily redeem us! We are brought
very low."

What wonder that they mourn? For nineteen dreary cen-
turies their history has been one almost uninterrupted trag-
edy. Scattered throughout the world, scorned of all nations,
they have been forced to suffer every form of persecution




which men have been sufficiently cruel and ingenious to
invent. Words fail to depict their sufferings. To tor-
ture, rob and exile them, the despotism of a hundred kings
has been exhausted. They have been bought and sold as
slaves. The plague which devastated Europe
in the Middle Ages was ascribed to them, with
horrible results. In France, throughout whole
provinces, every Jew was burned.
In Germany, too, their history for
centuries is a hideous chronicle of
human cruelty. Even in England
their persecution, sketched in outline
by Sir Walter Scott in Ivanhoc, is
nothing to the lurid picture which he
might have drawn.

As for Spain, no land in the world
has equaled this, the birthplace of
the Inquisition, in wreaking cruel
wrath on the unoffending Jew.
Many were here buried alive. In
one year, in Seville alone, two
hundred and eighty are said to have perished in the flames.
Hebrews themselves consider their terrible expulsion from
Spain a misfortune equaled only by the ruin of their
Temple. We shudder at the brutal policy of Russia
toward the Jews to-day, but let us not forget that all
other Christian nations, except free America, have acted
in a similar way when they had reached Russia's present
stage of civilization. In the thirteenth century, all Jews
were banished from Great Britain and their property was
seized. In 1390 they were expelled from France; and
in 1492, the very year which witnessed the discovery of
America by Columbus, they were cast forth from Spain,
where they had lived protected by the Moors 'for six hundred




years, to wander through the world as hated exiles, and fre-

quently to perish of starvation or by the slower agony of the

slave-whip. If received at all in many Christian cities, they

were hived in certain limited districts, like the Ghetto at

Rome. Moreover, by a refinement of torture, Jewish chil-

dren under fourteen years of age were taken from their par-

ents, and retained in Spain and Portugal to be brought up as

Christians, so that, in their madness, Hebrew mothers would

sometimes murder their own offspring and then commit sui-

cide. And why was all this misery in-

flicted on the Hebrew race? Because the

Jews were said to have crucified Jesus.

But as a matter of fact the Jews did not

crucify Jesus. It was the Romans who

scourged Him, put the crown of thorns

upon His brow, and finally nailed Him to

the cross. True, the Jews solicited His

death. But how many of them? Only a

priestly sect in Jerusalem. Is it fair to

condemn an entire people for the sins of a

few, and above all to persecute their

innocent descendants after hundreds of

years have come and gone? That

would be a dangerous precedent to

establish ! According to that, we ought

to persecute the Greeks for causing

Socrates to drink the hemlock; the

Italians, because so many martyrs were

thrown to the lions in the Roman Colos-

seum ; the Florentines for burning Savona-

rola; the English for the flames of Smithfield; the Spaniards

for the horrors of the Inquisition.

The Jews are not the only people who have rejected and
put to death their teachers and reformers. Such conduct is




as old as history. In any case, what right have certain
nations (themselves not without sin) to act as executioners?
"Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord."

Does it seem credible, therefore, in view of the fact that
Christian baptism has usually offered to the Jew an avenue

of escape from all these
horrors, that after nine-
teen hundred years of such
calamitous persecution,
one genuine Hebrew can
be left who has not ex-
changed his faith for the
religion of his tyrants ?
Even in Russia, now, a
Jew may rid himself of
many restrictions by be-
coming a Christian. Here,
indeed, is the marvel of
it all, the miracle of his-
tory, that in direct op-
position to all motives of self-interest, the Jews not only
have remained, but still remain, sublimely loyal to their
fathers' faith. Nothing has shaken or divided them. They
have survived the empires which sought to destroy them.
Without a country, without a common, living language, and
without one political bond of union, they nevertheless exist
to-day a perfectly distinct and indestructible race, exulting
in their glorious past!

And what a past is theirs! We need not dwell upon the
fact that they have given to mankind the Bible; that the
sublimcst of religious prophecies, and the most eloquent of
sacred songs, were written by the Jews. We need not even
elaborate the startling truth that from Judaea have come
forth the three religions which so influence the race Juda-




ism, Christianity, and Islamism. Let all that for a moment
go, while we consider later history. Through the darkness
of the Middle Ages, when most of Europe lay in densest
ignorance, the Jews still held aloft the torch of learning.
They (with the Moors) were then the scholars of the world.
From their ranks came the ablest financiers, the profoundest
philosophers, and the most remarkable physicians. And even
now, despite their persecution, the influence of their race is
still paramount in Jerusalem.

A short time ago a band of wretched Jewish refugees from
Russia landed on the Syrian coast. They were well-nigh
starving, and tottering from weakness. Babes were dying at
their mothers' breasts. They were rescued by means of the
Hebrew colonial fund, and finally proceeded toward the
shrine of their race

Before them rose
the magnificent
Russian church
built on the Mount
of Olives, perhaps
upon the very place
where Jesus uttered
the words: "What-
soever ye would
that men should do
to you, do ye
even so to them."''
Imagine those Jew-
ish exiles, to whom the very name, "Russia," was synony-
mous with torture, looking on that gilded shrine and
asking: "Who are the people worshiping in that church,
Jews?" and receiving the answer: "No, Russians, worship-
ing a Jew!" "Who are the thousands praying in the



church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jews?" "No, Christians,
worshiping Jesus of Nazareth!" "Who are the hundreds
kneeling in the Mosque of Omar, Jews?" "No, Moslems,
praying there because it is hallowed by the memory of He-
brew patriarchs."

Truly, the Jew, persecuted though
he be, may smile in triumph; for
wherever he looks about him in Pales-
tine, from the undoubted tomb of
Abraham to the reputed sepulchre of
Jesus, he sees the followers of Christ
and Mohammed all zealously guard-
ing memorials of his own race. And
what must be his secret pride, when
he reflects that every word of the

Christian Bible was written by Jews, that the Moslem Bible,
the Koran, is founded on the Jewish faith, and that the
entire Christian world worships Jesus of Nazareth as divine,
and a vast proportion of it also reverences a Jewish woman
as the Mother of the Son of God !

In a place so thronged with classic and religious memories
as Palestine, even a man who has no Hebrew blood in his
veins may indulge in a dream regarding the future of this
extraordinary people. Suppose a final solution of the "East-
ern Question." Suppose the nations of the earth to be
assembled in council, as they were in Berlin a few years ago.
Suppose the miserably governed realm of the Sultan to be
diminished in size. Imagine some portions of it to be gov-
erned by various European powers, as Egypt is governed by
England at the present time. Conceive that those Christian
nations, moved by magnanimity, should say to this race which
they, or their ancestors, have persecuted so long: "Take
again the land of your forefathers. We guarantee you its
independence and integrity. It is the least that we can do



for you after all these centuries of misery. All of you will
not wish to go thither, but many will. At present Palestine
supports only six hundred thousand people, but, with proper
cultivation it can easily maintain two and a half millions.
You are a people without a country; there is a country with-
out a people. Be united. Fulfil the dreams of your old poets
and patriarchs. Go back, go back to the land of Abraham."

But were this dream realized, could the Jews become a
nation? They certainly have produced great statesmen.
Who does not recollect Gambetta, that indefatigable hero of
the French nation after its terrible defeat by Germany? He
was a Jew. So was Count Von Arnim, the German diplo-
mat. So was Lasker, the liberal leader of the Prussian par-
liament, the only man in that assembly whom Bismarck really
feared. Jews were some years ago the Mayors of the prin-
cipal cities of England, including Lon-
don; while, in less than a century
after their political disabilities had
been removed in England, the
Premier of the Queen's domin-
ions, the virtual sovereign of
the British empire, was the
Hebrew, Benjamin Disraeli, Earl
of Beaconsfield. You recollect
that when he was taunted once
in Parliament with being a Jew,
he rose and answered: "Yes, I
am a Jew, but let me remind
the honorable gentleman that,
when his ancestors were savages on the banks of the Thames,
mine were princes in Solomon's temple!"

What have they done in modern literature?

The most eloquent orator and the most brilliant writer
in Spain, Emilio Castelar, is a Hebrew.




The majority of the professorial chairs in Germany are
occupied by Jews. Two-thirds of the journalism of Europe
to-day is said to be controlled by Hebrews. Out of three
hundred and seventy authors in the Austrian Empire, two
hundred and twenty-five are Jews. The poet Heine was of
Hebrew descent; so was the German novelist, Auerbach.
And the Hebrew Spinoza was the father of modern philoso-

In art and music it is the same. Once give the Jew a
chance, and he springs into the front rank of his competitors;
the splendid genius of the race leaping into flame like a row
of lights, when the torch is passed along the line. Thus Mun-
kacsy, the Hungarian painter, was a Hebrew. So were the
famous actresses Rachel and Janauschek. So is that woman
of surpassing histrionic genius, Sarah Bernhardt. It is im-
possible to enumerate all the musicians found among the

Jews, but we may mention Mosch-
eles, Wieniawski, Joachim, and
Rubenstein, as well as the mighty
Jfct, composers, HaleVy, Rossini, Meyer-

beer and Mendelssohn.
How is it in finance?
Here they are unrivaled. The
Jews are the bankers of the world.
The banking business of the Aus-
trian empire is managed by He-
brews, who could foreclose and ruin
many of the nobles who in society


treat them with disdain. The

principal banker of Prussia is the Hebrew, Bleichroder; while
the Jewish house of the Rothschilds controls the diplomacy
of empires.

The Jews, we know, are often reproached with being
merely financiers, and with doing little or nothing in indus-




trial or pastoral pursuits. But why is this? Because until
recently everywhere, and even now in certain portions of the
world, the Jews have not been allowed to own a foot of soil,
or to enter any manufacturing guilds.
Accordingly, being restricted to finance,
they have taken their revenge by man-
aging the money commerce of the world.

Again, the Jews are often blamed
because of their fondness for gems.
But for centuries they were compelled
to carry their wealth in that portable
and easily secreted form, since, when-
ever suspected of having property,
they usually escaped having their teeth
pulled, or their nails drawn out by the roots, only by yield-
ing it up to their persecutors.

We all dislike the petty avarice of small Jewish traders, but
let us in charity remember that they are but exhibiting the
traits that centuries of persecution have ground into them.

" Our deeds still travel with us from afar,
And what we have been makes us what we are."

The death of that grand benefactor
of his race, Sir Moses Montefiore,
reminded us of another characteristic of
the Jews, their philanthropy. He was
so well known for his benevolence, that
on the one hundredth anniversary of
his birth (in 1884), he received the
homage of the civilized world; and
he it was who first proposed the scheme of rescuing his
persecuted brethren and forming them into well man-
aged colonies in various countries. This scheme was ably
seconded by his successor in benevolence, the late Baron
Hirsch, whose charity was on a scale unprecedented in the



annals of philanthropy, for he gave fifteen million dollars for
the relief of his outcast co-religionists! Russian tyranny,
therefore, colossal though it was, encountered Jewish charity

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Online LibraryJohn L. (John Lawson) StoddardJohn L. Stoddard's lectures : illustrated and embellished with views of the world's famous places and people, being the identical discourses delivered during the past eighteen years under the title of the Stoddard lectures (Volume 2) → online text (page 8 of 12)