Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

“I number, Shammai, but forty years, and know nothing thereof."

“ But where,” asked Shammai,“ has this youth concealed himself during the years since the time of his birth ?

6 As I learned at Bethabara,” Onias replied, “ he hath dwelt in Nazareth, save that at the feasts he hath ever gone up to Jerusalem, carefully observing the law. But this is affirmed also, that he is of the family and lineage of David.”

“ That,” said Shammai, “will place him above John in his hopes of a ready reception, for John could not claim as much. Yet we hear that the disciples of John contend that the voice pointed to their master as the Son of God rather than Jesus; the name of neither having been pronounced.”

“So," replied Onias, “it happened ; for although John said at the first of himself that he was but the herald of one greater, and so declares to this day, his followers scruple not to believe and declare that he himself is that greater. And this notwithstanding also the plainness with which the Baptist hath announced Jesus as a prophet above all, even he who should come."

Said Zadok, “Verily, Onias, thy words seem as of one who is ready to believe these things himself. Hast thou too been baptized in Jordan ?”

“ Jest not, Zadok,” replied thy brother, “ with things that may be of God. The times are full of dread. I am, as thou well knowest, as you all know, firmly bound to Herod; but Herod is not God, nor hath God spoken as yet by him.

Wherever and whenever I shall hear, or believe I hear the voice of God, and behold the signs that shall show his presence and power, there shall I be to listen and obey. In John I have beheld them not, yet is he a man of God. He is not the hope of Israel, though the spirit of God may rest upon him. But what can we yet say of Jesus? If the eyes and ears of men have not been blinded or deceived by the powers of darkness, then hath the God of our nation spoken. The multitudes of Bethabara doubt not that he has. The heavenly signs were not to be mistaken, they affirm. Yet, as I judge, we know not enough in this either to affirm or deny. The power of invisible spirits and of the angels who fell we know not. It may be a delusion of Satan. Let us wait to see more. We must know him and hear him. It must reasonably give pause to us and to all, that Jesus has already withdrawn from sight, plunging immediately into the secret places of the mountain deserts. But, Zadok, while it may be that God hath indeed descended among us, and has at length revisited his people by the prophet whom long since he promised, it becometh all his children to bow in reverence and wait his will.”

Zadok, far from being moved by what Onias had said with his air of deep sincerity, was evidently labouring while he spoke to suppress his scorn and contempt. His eye the while was fired with the inward passion, and his lip curled with derision. He was about to speak, but Shammai interposed —

“Onias, Zadok is right; and such should be our teaching at the synagogue. The prophets have foreshown that Messiah shall in these days reveal himself, but they have not said with what form he shall come, with what signs he shall be announced, nor how attended. The thoughts and ways

of Jehovah are not as ours. When he appeared of old to his servant, he was not in the fire, nor in the whirlwind, but in the small voice. So if we would be prudent shall we say it may be now. The people look for one coming in the pomp and circumstance of a prince, so that every eye shall confess him as there, or there, or here; but perchance they may misjudge the trappings of a true prince. A prince and king he certainly will be; he who is to come is truly to be the deliverer of Israel; but where shall be the hiding of his power, and what the instruments he shall use, and what the raiment he shall wear, and the ensigns of his dignity, who may dare to say ?”

“ The ruler hath spoken what is right,” cried many voices of those who were crowded around, intently listen

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

ing. “Let us wait and see," exclaimed others. “ If Jesus is the Son of David, we shall soon behold him on his throne; that will show him."

“ And if he is Beelzebub's minister, as he seemeth, by this seeking the desert places, we shall see him no more; he hath already gone back to his master,” cried Zadok's shrieking voice.

With these words and other discourse which followed, Shammai, Zadok, and those who had accompanied them, took leave and departed from the city.

Thus, my mother, are we, as I have said, already arrested in our affairs. As the thoughts of all are swallowed up by the strangeness of these events, and are not to be diverted from them, we are compelled to give way and remain inactive so far are we determined in our course by the events and circumstances themselves. Obeying therefore the counsel of Onias, and the necessity of things also, I went not to Tiberias, but despatched Ziba instead bearing letters to Herod.

I send this, my mother, at the moment I have written it, that you may receive early knowledge of the wonderful things that have happened.

CHAPTER XVI.

JULIAN AT BETH-HAREM TO NAOMI IN ROME.

THE VENDOR OF GRAPES. – VISIT TO THE ROMAN QUARTERS.

CONTENTED MAN. THE DEMONIAC. - Ruth.

[ocr errors]

'HE day following that on which I last wrote, I sought

the streets of Beth-Harem, both that I might learn what more there was to be known concerning Jesus, and that I might visit again the leper and his daughter, whom I had seen before my journey to Machærus, but whom since that period I had committed to the care of Judith. Of their welfare she has often assured me; for though she herself, partaking of the common feelings of the disease, has seen them but once, yet has she bestowed upon them many gifts and kindnesses through her servants.

It was not difficult to perceive on the way to the city, but especially in the streets whichever way one turned, that some events had occurred by which the minds of the people were much disturbed. They were everywhere gathered together conversing with earnestness, and either inquiring for news or imparting it. At the market-place I found not only those who are accustomed to pass there the greater portion of the time which they know not otherwise how to rid themselves of, but many others of the chief persons of the city and neighbouring country. John and Jesus were the names upon the lips of all. I approached one who sold fruits, with whom several were conversing. As I tasted his grapes, some of which I desired to purchase for the leper and his daughter, and listened to those who were talking, the countryman addressed me, saying, “ What think you, sir, shall we hear anything more of this Jesus of Bethabara ?”

I said that I could have no opinion worth repeating, as I had heard so little; nor indeed could any, as so little had been seen or was known of him.

“ Not much, in truth,” he replied, “is known of Jesus ; but of John much is known, and he has borne his testimony to Jesus ; and if any one should be believed, surely it is John, whom all who know, know to be honest.”

I said I had never heard John nor seen him; but the reports that had been brought to me were in his favour. But how should he know anything of Jesus ?

“ How,” said one who stood by, “ should a prophet know anything but by the power of God ?

“But how," I asked, willing to know their opinion, “ do men know John to be a prophet? he has wrought no miracle that I have heard."

“ That is very true,” replied the countryman,“ but did he not constantly prophesy of the coming of one after him, whom the people knew nothing of, but who would one day reveal himself; and has he not now come? He is surely

; shown to be a prophet, for his prophecy has come to pass.

“ If, as you judge, he prophesied the coming of the Messiah," I replied, “is it not too early to say that the prophecy is fulfilled, since we know not as yet that Jesus is he, and surely the manner of his appearing makes not much for him?"

“ I do not know,” replied the other, “why we should look for everything at once. He indeed appears as other men, so we are told, but what say you to the voice, and the heavens opened ? Are not these somewhat ?”

“ If those things," I answered, “indeed happened as has been related, they do truly declare that God is with Jesus or John, whichever was pointed out by the voice, but surely they make neither to be the Messiah.'

“ That, indeed, is true as you say," rejoined the other, “ but then to one who is ready to believe, it makes it so likely that it seems to be almost or quite enough of itself.”

“Ah! you foolish people,” cried Zadok’s voice from

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »