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as the historian Sozomen expresses it, that the Nazarenes, when they repaired to Golgotha to pray, would appear to the public eye to be offering up their adoration to the daughter of Jupiter. This is a striking proof that a perfect knowledge of the sacred places was retained by the church of Jerusalem in the middle of the second century. At a somewhat later period, when exposed to persecution, if they were not allowed to build their altars at the Sepulchre, or proceed without apprehension to the scene of the Nativity, they enjoyed at least the consolation of keeping alive the remembrance of the great events connected with these interesting monuments of their faith; anticipating, at the same time, the approaching ruin of that proud superstition by which they had been so long oppressed.
The conversion of Constantine gave a new vigour to these local reminiscences of the evangelical history. That celebrated ruler wrote to Macarius, bishop of Jerusalem, to cover the tomb of Jesus Christ with a magnificent church; while his mother, the Empress Helena, repaired in person to Palestine, in order to give a proper efficacy to the zeal which animated the throne, and to assist in searching for the venerable remains of the first age of the gospel. To this illustrious female is ascribed the glory of restoring to religion some of its most valued memorials. Not satisfied with the splendid temple erected at the Holy Sepulchre, she ordered two similar edifices to be reared under her own auspices; one over the manger of the Messiah at Bethlehem, and the other on the Mount of Olives, to commemorate his ascension into heaven. Chapels, altars, and houses of prayer, gradually marked all the places conse
crated by the acts of the Son of Man; the oral traditions were forthwith committed to writing, and thereby secured for ever from the treachery of individual recollection.*
These considerations give great probability to the conjectures of those pious persons who, in the fourth century of our era, assisted the mother of Constantine in fixing the locality of holy scenes. From that period down to the present day, the devotion of the Christian and the avarice of the Mohammedan, have sufficiently secured the remembrance both of the places and of the events with which they are associated. But no length of time can wear out the impression of deep reverence and respect which are excited by an actual examination of those interesting spots that witnessed the stupendous occurrençes recorded in the inspired volume. Or, if there be in existence any cause which could effectually counteract such natural and laudable feelings, it is the excessive minuteness of detail and fanciful description usually found to accompany the exhibition of sacred relics. The Christian traveller is delighted when he obtains the first glance of Carmel, of Tabor, of Libanus, and of Olivet; his heart opens to many touching recollections at the moment when the Jordan, the Lake of Tiberias, and even the waters of the Dead Sea spread themselves out before his eyes; but neither his piety nor his belief is strengthened when he has presented to him a portion of the cross whereon our Saviour was suspended, the nails that pierced his hands and feet, the linen in which his body was wrapped, the stone on
Chateaubriand Itinéraire, tome i. p. 48, &c. Sozom. lib. iii. c. i. Euseb. Hist. Eccl. lib. vi. S. Cyril, Cat. xvi.
which his corpse reposed in the sepulchre, as well as that occupied by the ministering angel on the morning of the resurrection. The scepticism with which such doubtful remains cannot fail to be examined, is turned into positive disgust when the guardians of the grotto at Bethlehem undertake to show the water wherein the infant Messiah was washed, the milk of the blessed Virgin his mother, the swaddling-clothes, the manger, and other particulars neither less minute nor less improbable.
But such abuses, the fruit of many ages of credulity and ignorance, do not materially diminish the force of the impression produced by scenes which no art can change, and hardly any description can disguise. The hills still stand round about Jerusalem as they stood in the days of David and of Solomon. The dew falls on Hermon, the cedars grow on Libanus, and Kishon, that ancient river, draws its stream from Tabor as in the times of old. The Sea of Galilee still presents the same natural accompaniments, the fig-tree springs up by the way-side, the sycamore spreads its branches, and the vines and olives still climb the sides of the mountains. The desolation which covered the Cities of the Plain is not less striking at the present hour than when Moses with an inspired pen recorded the judgment of God; the swellings of Jordan are not less regular in their rise than when the Hebrews first approached its banks; and he who goes down from Jerusalem to Jericho still incurs the greatest hazard of falling among thieves. There is, in fact, in the scenery and manners of Palestine, a perpetuity
that accords well with the everlasting import of its historical records, and which enables us to iden
tify with the utmost readiness the local imagery of every great transaction.
The extent of this remarkable country has varied at different times, according to the nature of the government which it has either enjoyed or been compelled to acknowledge. When it was first occupied by the Israelites, the Land of Canaan, properly so called, was confined between the shores of the Mediter ranean and the western bank of the Jordan; the breadth at no part exceeding fifty miles, while the length hardly amounted to three times that space. At a later period, the arms of David and of his immediate successor carried the boundaries of the kingdom to the Euphrates and Orontes on the one hand, and in an opposite direction to the remotest confines of Edom and Moab. The population, as might be expected, has undergone a similar variation. It is true that no particular in ancient history is liable to a better-founded suspicion than the numerical statements which respect nations and armies; for pride and fear have, in their turn, contributed not a little to exaggerate, in rival countries, the amount of the persons capable of taking a share in the field of battle. Proceeding on the usual grounds of calculation, we must infer, from the number of warriors whom Moses conducted through the Desert, that the Hebrew people, when they crossed the Jordan, did not fall short of two millions; while, from facts recorded in the book of Samuel, we may conclude with greater confidence that the enrolment made, under the direction of Joab, must have returned a gross population of five millions and a half.
The present aspect of Palestine, under an admi
nistration where every thing decays and nothing is renewed, can afford no just criterion of the accuracy of such statements. Hasty observers have indeed pronounced that a hilly country destitute of great rivers could not, even under the most skilful management, supply food for so many mouths. But this precipitate conclusion has been vigorously combated by the most competent judges, who have taken pains to estimate the produce of a soil under the fertilizing influence of a sun which may be regarded as almost tropical, and of a well-regulated irrigation which the Syrians knew how to practise with the greatest success. Canaan, it must be admitted, could not be compared to Egypt in respect to corn. There is no Nile to scatter the riches of an inexhaustible fecundity over its valleys and plains. Still it was not without reason that Moses described it as 66 a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains, and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig-trees, and pomegranates; a land of oilolive and honey; a land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass.”*
The reports of the latest travellers confirm the accuracy of the picture drawn by this divine legislator. Near Jericho the wild olives continue to bear berries of a large size, which give the finest oil. In places subjected to irrigation, the same field, after a crop of wheat in May, produces pulse in autumn. Several of the trees are continually bearing flowers
* Deuteronomy, viii. 7, 8, 9.