Imágenes de páginas

is of small stature, but of so great courage, as not to be afraid to engage with the lion and the largest beasts; and s Alexander, a little king in comparison, of small stature too, and with a small army, dared to attack the king of kings, Darius, whose kingdom was extended from the Ægian Sea to the Indies. Others have pursued the comparison further, but with more subtilty than solidity; for I conceive that the principal point of likeness was designed between the swiftness and impetuosity of the one and the other."

Dean Prideaux, in his connection of sacred and profane history, says, “ Alexander flew with victory swifter than others could travel, often with his horse pursuing his enemies upon the spur whole days and nights, and sometimes making long marches for several days, one after the other—as once he did in pursuit of Darius-of near forty miles a day for eleven days together. So that by the speed of his marches he came upon his enemies before they were aware of him, and conquered them before they could be in a posture to resist him: which exactly agreeth with the description given of him in the prophecies of Daniel some ages before ; he being in them set forth under the similitude of a panther, or leopard, with four wings. For he was impetuous and fierce in his warlike expeditions, as a panther after his prey, and came upon his enemies with that speed, as if he flew with a double pair of wings. And to this purpose he is, in another place of those prophecies compared to an he-goat, coming from the west with that swiftness upon the king of Media and Persia, that he seemed as if his feet did not touch the ground. And his actions, as well in this comparison as in the former, fully verified the prophecy."

I have not undertaken to give the history of Alexanderthis may be found in “ Plutarch's Lives," "Rollin's Ancient History," and in those works, which are now so accessible to our youth, in consequence of cheap publication schemes. Young persons, in this respect, are in a far better condition than their fathers were, who found books so costly that it was difficult for them to procure a library. Let our young friends heed the counsel given them by Elihu Burritt, in

the last month's Juvenile Companion, and they may soon obtain many useful works. My purpose is to direct attention to an incident in the life of this great man, recorded by Josephus, and to a Talmudic narrative, founded upon it, as containing important moral lessons, worthy of the wisdom of Jewish sages to convey; and, on the part of the young, to be attentively observed. Josephus, tells us, that “when Alexander had taken Gaza, he made haste to go up to Jerusalem. Jaddua, the high priest of the nation at that time, when he heard of this design, was in an agony, and under terror, not knowing how he should meet the Macedonians, since the king was displeased with him for refusing to transfer his allegiance from Darius to the conqueror. Jaddua, therefore, ordained that the people should make supplications, and should join with him in offering sacrifices to God, whom he besought to deliver them from the perils that were coming upon them; whereupon, God warned him in a dream, which came upon him after he had offered the sacrifice, that he should take courage and adorn the city, and open the gates; that the people should appear in white garments, but that he and the priests should meet the king in the habits proper to their order, without the dread of any ill consequences, which the providence of God would prevent.”

“Everything was done according to these directions. The solemn procession proceeded as far as the hill of Sapha, which overlooks Jerusalem, and commands an extensive prospect of the country. As Alexander approached and saw Jaddua in the robes of his office, he went forward alone towards the high priest, adored the name of God, which was engraved on the golden frontal plate of his turban, and then saluted Jaddua. Immediately the priests and citizens surrounded the king, and welcomed him with joyful acclamations. Alexander then gave his hand to the high priest, attended him into the city, went to the temple, and there offered sacrifices in the manner which the priests directed. When they afterwards showed him the prophecies of Daniel respecting himself, he was highly gratified, and readily granted the request of the high priest that the Jews might, everywhere, have liberty to live according to their own

laws." This extraordinary reception of the Jews was owing to a dream, in which Alexander had previously seen this high priest in his pontifical robes. Alexander, therefore, readily persuaded himself that this was an evidence of his Divine commission to overthrow the Persian empire. This remarkable deliverance to the Jewish people was likely to produce many traditionary stories. Hence we find the following dialogue recorded by the Rabbins. The lessons which it inculcates are instructive.

* The monarch had often heard the wisdom of the Jewish sages highly eulogized, and therefore felt delighted at the opportunity of conversing with them. In the course of the interview, the following dialogue took place between him and them :

Alexander. Who is most justly entitled to the appellation of "sage ?"

The Elders. He who at all times foresees the result of present undertakings.

A. Who is most truly a hero?
E. He who subdues his passions.
A. Who is truly rich ?
E. He who is contented with little.

What ought man to do to live well ?
E. He must accustom himself to privations.
A. What must man do to shorten the duration of his life?
E. He needs but accustom himself to luxuriousness.

4. What means must man employ to render himself beloved by all ?

E. Let him avoid assuming any superiority above others.

A. Do you consider me as more happy than yourselves, or not?

E. Yes, we do so consider thee, if thou employest thy power to the welfare of mankind.

A. Who is the wisest amongst you ?

E. We are perfect equals. This thou canst perceive by the unanimity of our replies.

4. What induces you to oppose our religious tenets ? E. Their incongruities.

A. What is to prevent me from causing you all to be pat to death?

E. Thy honour. For though our lives are in thy hands yet a breach of faith is beyond the power of so great a monarch.

Alexander smiled, and dismissed them richly gifted.”

The elders made the last reply in consequence of the king having told them at the commencement of the conversation, freely to state their opinions, and not to fear displeasing him. It is not improbable that such a conversation took place, when we consider that Alexander was instructed by Aristotle in metaphysics and morals, and professed strong attachment to the principles of wisdom. Plutarch has preserved a letter from the pupil to the preceptor, in which he says, “ In what shall we differ from others, if the sublimer knowledge which we gained from you, be made common to all the world ? For my part, I had rather excel the bulk of mankind in the superior parts of learning, than in the extent of power and dominion.”

We do not think that knowledge should be confined to the rich and the great. Happy it is for our youth that much sounder knowledge than either Alexander or his preceptor enjoyed, may be obtained by them from the Bible, which many of them have been taught to read and understand. Pity it is, however, that Alexander, if ever he desired to excel in learning, did not confine himself to researches after wisdom, rather than pursue that reckless course of war that caused him to exceed the rest of men in his thirst for power, and his boundless ambition.

Plutarch also records a similar account of Alexander's trying the wisdom of the ancient gymnosophists, or wise men, of India. To ten of these who “ were reckoned the most acute and concise in their answers, he put the most difficult questions that could be thought of, and at the same time declared he would put the first person that answered wrong to death, and after him all the rest.” He, however, afterwards “loaded them with presents and dismissed them." The answers of these Brahmanical philosophers were not equal to those of the Jewish sages. The two best of them, which bore on the character of the enquirer, were as follows:

1st. “What are the best means for a man to make himself loved ? ” The reply was, “ If possessed of great power, doo not make yourself feared.” 2nd. “How a man might become a god ?" To which the answer given was, “ By doing what it is impossible for a man to do."

This last was a striking rebuke to a man who coveted' to be esteemed as a god, and who solicited divine honours. In the answers of these Jewish sages, our youthful friends will find much that is worthy of attentive consideration. He only is wise who foresees the result of present undertakings. He acts as a fool who blindly rushes along a path without ascertaining the inevitable certainty of death by a plunge over the unperceived precipice in the way. Youths are entering upon new undertakings—What will be their respective issues ? A life of sensual dissipation will lead to bodily misery and eternal remorse. A life devoted to war may possibly secure empty glory, bought at the expense of the lives of our fellow-men; but the garland which it weaves must wither and perish. A life consecrated to the untiring pursuit of gain, may probably amass a princely fortune ; but * what is a man profited if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul.” A life spent in the paths of literature and science, charming and ennobling as are such intellectual pursuits, may nevertheless leave the soul “ found wanting" in that moral goodness, that renovated and purified state, that alone can fit the creature for eternal communion with the Creator. The “wages of sin is death." The word of God enables us to foresee this evil; and he that is wise will forsake the road that leads to woe. And he “who by patient continuance in well-doing, seeks for glory, and honour, and immortality," engages in an undertaking which will secure “ eternal life.”

The other instructions of the "elders of Israel” are in accordance with those excellent principles of moral greatness laid down by the “Great Teacher" Jesus Christ, in his Sermon on the Mount. “He who subdues his passions is most truly a hero," say these sages. “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth," says Jesus. This meekness of spirit resents not injuries represses angry feelings and forbids the indulgence of hatred in the heart. But to obtain a victory over passion and pride is often more arduous than to storm a garrison. Hence Solomon says, " he that is slow

« AnteriorContinuar »