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“Yes, Julian,” she replied, “without doubt I have condemned myself. I am wrong.
I should have no judgment in matters too high for the reach of our poor thoughts. And yet how can one, who feels the darkness within, cease to conjecture and hope, and look forward for that which the heart, as God hath made it, pants for, as the spent hart for the water brooks ? But surely our wisdom is, as our office, to wait for the signs in patience of the soul, which shall give us assurance of the prophet of God whenever he shall appear. To you, Saturninus, these opinions I suppose are strange and new."
“ Not so," replied the Centurion; “I have been long in Judea, and the faith and the hopes of her people are already familiar to my ear and my mind. I have heard much of that of which you have now spoken, and ever listen with satisfaction to any who converse of such things, as thereby I become more exact in my knowledge of the forms of religious faith which prevail among your people ; and it has ever been the thoughts of men concerning their religious observances and doctrines that have possessed for me the highest power of attraction. As I enter the precincts of the dwelling of a new people, it is the first investigation with me, what is their belief of the gods? or have they none ? or do they worship the forms of nature, and the instruments of her power? Among you of Judea have I alone found thoughts of God, worthy of the mind to entertain concerning that being whom no man can ever understand. I mean among the common people, and the whole people ; for among us, philosophers have long held and do now hold opinions on such things, hardly less worthy to be reverenced than such as are apt to be found in your sacred books. But with you adequate thoughts and conceptions of the Divinity are a universal inheritance.”
“So,” said Judith, “they may seem to you, when you place them by the side of opinions held by the Roman populace. But so they seem not to me, and to many of our tribe who wait for the coming of the Just One. Our doctors and priests by their traditions, by which they have changed the law delivered by Moses, and in its place thrust their own figments, under which they escape from the obligations of a true piety, and in its stead offer to God and man the dead sacrifice of a ceremonial exactness, have corrupted not only our religion but the very hearts of the people, and with truth doubtless it may be affirmed, that beneath the fair and painted show we make of faith and love, there is hid unbelief, hatred, malice, and all uncleanness. The visible and apparent goodness is as a treacherous covering of verdure and flowers over dead men's graves, through which he who treads thereon falls into depths of foul corruption that the mind dares not contemplate. Of your Roman people there must be more hope than of us, we having perverted and thrust from us a higher truth. I wait with hope to hear good things yet of John. As yet all that we learn is as nothing. We hear to-day by such as have come from farther up the river, that he declares himself to be but the herald of one greater than himself; but who that greater is, or who himself is, only darkly hints.”
“So,” said I, “ Ziba hath reported to me, receiving it from those who deal in news at Beth-Harem. The people, he says, are greatly moved with curiosity, many having gone up toward Galilee in the desire to see him. They were not a little enraged that the rulers gave not to his disciple, the tanner of Enon, the liberty to declare himself. But in private dwellings they have heard him, and even on the steps of the market-place. They intend that on the next Sabbath his voice shall be heard in the Synagogue, if any power of theirs can bring it to pass.”
« The heart of our people properly so called, Saturninus,” said Judith, " is better than that of their guides and masters, our proud counsellors and doctors. Among our sequestered valleys, away from corrupt cities, they are still in some sort a pure and simple tribe — believers in
the spirit of our law as well as formal observers of the letter. Were a prophet indeed to arise, it is from them I should look for a just judgment concerning him, rather than from their masters, the Pharisees and doctors.
The moon now sinking below the horizon, and the inhabitants of the house having withdrawn from their amusement, the Centurion bid us farewell and turned toward the gates of Beth-Harem.
It is not difficult to see, my mother, with what attractive power Judith acts upon Saturninus.
Saturninus. He can neither hear other persons nor see other objects while she is near; nor is it wonderful, for it is the same with all who approach her. But it would, methinks, amuse the dark Pilate, were it made known to him, that he whom he sent into these regions to observe and control an enemy, is already, as it were, become the friend and associate of his household. He may indeed know this, and suppose that his spy has but so much the nearer access for his observations. And it would be so, were Saturninus capable of playing two parts. But of that no one who had ever looked upon his countenance, in which are written, in characters that cannot deceive, honesty and truth, could believe him guilty. He comes to the dwelling of thy brother as a friend, and will do none other than the offices and acts of a friend. And truly in this manner does he gain most successfully the ends of his sojourn in Beth-Harem. For no one could so secure the adherence and quiet of Beth-Harem and its suburbs, as by showing himself the friend and companion of Onias. But as friendly as he is toward Onias, so is he to the inhabitants of the city, and especially to the more religious among them. He has already conferred many acts of favour upon the Synagogue.
JULIAN AT BETH-HAREM TO NAOMI IN ROME.
Judith's APPREHENSIONS. -ONIAS AND ZADOK. - HEROD'S SUP-
HE beauty of this region, my mother, which lies on
the shores of the Jordan, would delight your eye which so loves to dwell on the works of nature. If Tivoli and the Alban hills, the base of Soracte, the sea views of Baiæ and Naples, draw you so often from the heated walls of Rome, and send you back again so much happier and better, as you do ever affirm, not less would this Jewish world minister to both mind and body, to the eye loving beauty alone, and to the soul, seeking God in beauty as in all things. Indeed to thy spirit, which ever seems half caught away from earth by its familiar musings upon the future and unseen, this land would supply a nourishment others never can. Even I have come to perceive and feel the difference. It is like no other spot of earth. The mind thinks of the many times through so many centuries that the spirit of the Universe, the infinite and the incomprehensible energy on which all depend, while from other nations he hath hidden himself in a silence and darkness never violated, hath here made himself visible, hath here conversed with man, and taught and guided him as a child, that through one people so instructed truth might be then spread abroad in the world and thinking thus, a dread falls upon it in the midst of the scenes where such things have been, which, though it awes the soul, yet strangely adds to the pleasure with which it gazes and contemplates. The very leaves of the trees as they tremble on their branches seem shaken by the
invisible God; the dark woods and the silent grotto are here entered with a hesitating step, as if there especially would be felt his presence. On the banks of the sacred Jordan the ear hears Him in the murmuring of its waters. And over the face of the whole land, and in the overhanging air there seems brooding the spirit of Him who hath indeed made all, and is the Father of all, but is in a nearer sense, as the past hath proved, the Father and Protector of this people, and may at any moment and in any place again make himself suddenly to be seen, and heard, and felt. Now especially are all looking and waiting for the place and the hour when He shall shine forth and put in some soul his mind and his power, and establish his kingdom as of old in the sight of all men. Every rumour of what is strange is caught up and magnified, and wherever it goes finds those full of feverish expectations, who are prompt to believe. Is this feeling that holds all alike, the high and the low, the slave and the lord, the Pharisee, the Sadducee, and the Herodian, the mother and the child, the sound and diseased of mind, the whole and the possessed, the Samaritan as well as the Jew,- is this a delusion? or is it indeed stirred up within us by the visitings of God himself, as a preparation for that which is to be soon unfolded ? Oh, my mother, who can doubt, that hath dwelt upon the writings of our Scriptures, as I have lately done, whether it be of a divine origin, this general moving and heaving of the common mind. The time spoken of by the prophets hath come, and as they are true, must the kingdom of God quickly appear. And of a surety if ever this people is to be saved, it must be now; if ever they are to be snatched from the jaws of the devourer, it must be now ere they are quite swallowed up. A little while and they will be dissolved and lost in the mighty mass of the Leviathan whose teeth are now gnashing upon them ready to destroy.
Concerning this I have now at length somewhat of moment to say unto thee. But let it come in its order.