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now hidden and concealed will be revealed in the plain light of day.
I am not surprised to learn from thy letters, that in Rome the same things are to be observed among many as here, and I hear the like also of our people wherever they are scattered, whether in Greece, Egypt, or the farther East. There is among them all, as letters from all parts inform us, as well as the reports of merchants and travellers, one and the same expectation. Within the limits of Judea and Galilee the thoughts of all orders of people dwell upon this hope. The appearance, and much more the prophetic declarations of John, however dark and ambiguous, which of late both Onias and myself have heard from him with our own ears, have helped to impart to it new ardour, and give it a yet deeper place in the heart. All this works mightily for us; and yet I trust before another moon it will be shown throughout all the coasts of Israel that the hope on which they have fed has been neither poison nor ashes, but as the very food which God himself hath provided to nourish the soul, and be for the salvation of his people. Every day do the people groan beneath new exactions of our avaricious conquerors; each day do they find their liberty abridged more and more, themselves and their children subject to cruelties the most wanton and oppressive. Pilate's conduct in Cæsarea, his massacres in Jerusalem, his slaughter of the Galileans while offering their sacrifices, and the lesser acts of tyranny of which none or few hear or know save those who suffer, have served, together with what hath taken place on the Jordan, to put fire into men's bosoms, and to kindle there a new and fiercer zeal for God, and his Law, and Judea.
JULIAN AT BETH-HAREM TO NAOMI IN ROME.
ARRIVAL OF ONIAS. His TIDINGS. EXCITEMENT CAUSED BY
THE APPEARANCE OF THE NEW PROPHET. - ZADOK AND SHAMMAI. -A WOMAN'S JUDGMENT.
IT is many days, my mother
, since I last wrote. Strange
events the time to keep me silent, and attentive only to what was taking place immediately around us. In the midst of our enterprises we have been suddenly arrested by the appearance of another prophet, if prophet he be, on the banks of the Jordan! Where there was but one, there are now two; where there was but John, there are now John and Jesus, for that is the name of him who has now joined him. All the region round about us is in a ferment of curiosity and hope, and so distracted are men's .minds, that Herod, and all we who are joined with him, pause at once in our movements. Every arm must hang lifeless until what has now occurred shall receive its interpretation.
The account of these things was first received thus
It became necessary for me, in obedience to letters received from Herod, to depart for Tiberias, where during the spring and summer seasons, -as being cooler, he chiefly resides. Ziba, having completed our preparations, was awaiting me at the portico overlooking the Jordan. As I stood conversing with Judith, unwilling to depart while that pleasure could be prolonged, choosing also that the twilight should deepen farther into the evening shade ere I betook myself to the public ways, Onias, who had been some days absent at Machærus, suddenly arrived. He had plainly ridden fast and far, the foam ran from the animal from which he sprang, and he himself seemed dis
turbed. When he had, as always, affectionately saluted us, he asked, “ Whither I was bound ?”
I said, “To Tiberias."
“ Since what has happened,” he replied, “ at Bethabara, it can be of no service."
We asked, “ Of what do you speak? we have heard nothing."
6 That is strange,” replied Onias. 6 Beth-Harem I found stirred throughout. I marvel that Shammai and Zadok have not already been here. What I speak of,” continued Onias, “is of the appearance of another prophet, or of the Messiah himself, on the banks of the Jordan at Bethabara."
We expressed our astonishment, and besought him to relate all he had learned.
“He came yesterday,” resumed Onias, 6 to John to receive with others his baptism. I had not yet arrived there. But thus I was told by those who were there. It was about the ninth hour of the day when, as John was baptizing in the stream, his kinsman, Jesus from Nazareth, came, among others, asking to be baptized also. They said that as John saw him approaching, he paused and looked steadfastly upon him with such sort of reverence in his eyes, as if he had beheld a person greatly exalted above himself, — yea, even as if he had seen an angel from heaven, and that at first he refused to baptize him, as being himself the inferior teacher, which did not fail to fill John's disciples with the most extreme astonishment, and not less all who stood near; for that John is a prophet sent of God his followers do not doubt, but boast themselves continually of his authority, and do not scruple to say, as they believe, that he will in the event prove himself the Christ."
“ That we continually hear," I said.
“But what immediately happened,” resumed thy brother, “ filled all who were present with greater wonder still. For they affirm that, when John's unwillingness was overcome by the earnest request or command of Jesus, and they had gone into the river, and while the Baptist poured on the
water of purification, a great light suddenly shone on all, beyond the brightness of the day, as if from the opened heavens, and at the same time a voice was heard, not as the voice of a man, declaring him the Son of God. The heavenly sign was but for a moment, and was then withdrawn. The multitude were filled with both fear and amazement, and when it had passed could hardly say whether what they had witnessed were a reality or a dream. But while they questioned among themselves, Jesus disappeared from the midst of them, and has not since been found."
“ This is wonderful, my father, indeed,” said Judith. “ It surely seems as if God were now visiting us.
The long silence seems broken. First John, and now another. Surely, my father, you will give heed to this.”
“ I have not denied, my child, to John the praise of a righteous man. I have denied him as the Christ only. He is truly a man of God. What hath now happened in Bethabara fills me, Judith, not less than thyself, with astonishment and with hope also. Doubt not that I shall wait to know what this vision may mean. My trust is even in God, that he will yet appear for his people, and how he shall appear, by what signs and by what mediator, whether angel or man, our ignorance cannot say. Whoever shall come with the authority of God, him will I receive. Jesus may be he.”
As Onias said these things there was the sound of approaching steps and voices, and in a moment Shammai, Zadok, with others of the synagogue, joined us. They were rejoiced to find Onias at home.
“ Now," said Shammai, " let us know the truth, for thou hast been at Bethabara, and, as we hear in Beth-Harem, wast present at the baptism. We have come for this end, to hear thy report and bear it back to the city.”
They were sorry and greatly surprised to learn that Onias had not himself been present.
“ Thus it is,” said Zadok, “ we know not what nor whom to believe. So of the appearance itself, may we well doubt if aught were seen beyond the light of a hot sun passing out from behind a cloud, or heard, beyond the rushing of the wind among the trees. The story by this time at Jerusalem speaks, I will warrant, of the heavens being on fire, and of legions of angels descending."
“ Nay, nay, Zadok,” said Onias, “not so. Though I saw not myself, I know those of Bethabara who were present and witnessed the appearance. It was as hath been reported to you, if an honest man is to be believed (and not one only but very many) who relates what he saw with his own eyes and heard with his own ears. They, indeed, who stood remote on the banks, and were not among such as knew what was taking place, but were attentive to other things, said that they heard only a noise as of thunder, and saw only a light as of the lightning. But they only are to be credited who stood by.”
“ But what,” said Zadok, “ hath become of the new prophet?”
“ While the people," replied Onias, “were talking with each other, overwhelmed with astonishment and fear, he was seen to depart by many who were near him towards the mountains, none hindering or following, or so much as asking whither he would go."
“Well,” said Shammai," these are strange things. But what is strange oft vanishes when more is heard and known.”
“And sometimes grows," said Judith,“ to what is stranger still.”
“ Yes, daughter," he replied, "you say true; so that patient waiting for the full event is the part of the wise. But,” continued the ruler, turning to Onias, “ whence came this Jesus ? — you have told us whither he has gone — for in Beth-Harem some say one thing, and some another. One affirms he is from Judea near Hebron, because he is a kinsman of John; others that he is from Bethlehem, and others from Galilee."
“ The last are right," answered Onias ; “he is of Galilee.”