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hideous swamp in search of prey?
in search of prey? Ere long, however, my musings wandered off to more interesting themes. I recalled the day and night I spent among Cæsarea's broken walls and prostrate columns more than forty years ago. Fresh from scenes of war and earthquake, sickness and death in Jerusalem, I then felt a mysterious sympathy with these sad and forsaken ruins. Cæsarea is, in some respects, the most interesting site on the earth to the missionary. Here the Holy Ghost was first poured out upon the Gentiles as upon the Jews, and thus the middle wall of partition broken down. From this spot the glad tidings set forth to run among the nations, north, and south, and east, and west--west, far west-and, after eighteen centuries, from the New World, westwards, beyond the dream of prophet or apostle, returns the missionary of that Gospel to mingle his tears with the dust and ashes of this cradle of the Gentile Church.
How wonderful are the ways of God! In this place the greatest missionary that ever lived was shut up in prison two whole years, and at a most critical time in the history of the Church, when his presence and preaching seemed indispensable. One cannot help feeling that Paul made a mistake when he came here from Acre en route to Jerusalem. He should have listened to Philip's four prophetic daughters, and to Agabus, who “took Paul's girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle.” But the lion-hearted apostle would not be persuaded. “What mean ye," saith he, “to weep, and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” And speedily and right nobly did he redeem his pledge.
Having escaped terrific mobs and horrible conspiracies at Jerusalem, he was brought back to this place in chains, and here held prisoner by Felix, that corrupt and tyrannical governor. How often he must have dragged his chain to the top of the castle during those two long years, and gazed on the green hills of Palestine, and out upon the blue sea over which he had sailed many times on messages of mercy to heathen nations along its distant shores. One
Acts xxi. 8–13.
longs to know something of the musings and occupations of that wonderful man during the tedium of those many months. But inspiration is silent, and even tradition fails us. The supposition that he then superintended the writing of Luke's Gospel is a mere guess, with no historical basis.
We are again within Cæsarea's prostrate walls. Doubtless some of these mounds of rubbish mark the exact site of Paul's prison, and from this sandy margin of the harbour he stepped on board that ship of Adramyttium in which he sailed' for Italy to prosecute his appeal before Cæsar.' Repeatedly have I passed over the same seas, and followed the apostle step by step in that tedious and unfortunate voyage. They evidently had a pleasant run to Sidon, where they touched the next day, and Paul was allowed to go on shore and refresh himself amongst his friends. The wind must have then hauled round to the west, for the ship could not pursue the direct course to Italy south of Cyprus, but ran north between that island and the Syrian coast, and then west over the sea of Cilicia and Pamphylia ; working westwards in the teeth of the wind, it was a tedious and dangerous passage. But we may not follow that celebrated voyage any farther at present, nor longer linger here at Cæsarea; so take your last look at these remains of the city, and harbor, and sandy suburbs, and let us hasten after our luggage, now far ahead of us.
In passing from Cæsarea to Jaffa the ancient geographers and Itineraries stretched their lines from the one to the other, as though there was nothing worth attention in the twelve intervening hours. Nor were they much mistaken, for there is, perhaps, no ride of so many miles in any other part of Palestine more solitary and barren of historic interest. Strabo says, “After Strato's Tower there is a great wood, and then Joppa.” The Roman road was evidently carried east of these sandy downs which lie along the shore, both to avoid them and also to find suitable places to throw their bridges over the rivers which enter the sea. Following that route there is first a dreary wood of dwarfish pines and tangled bushes, and then the long plain of Sharon.
Before taking leave of this interesting site, let us examine the
1 Acts xxvii. 2.
CÆSAREA TO SAMARIA.
traces of a city on the south of it, whose remains appear to be much older than those of Cæsarea. These inlets along the rocky shore, I suppose, were the harbor of that primitive city which was called Strato's Tower before and at the time of Herod. It was somewhere in this vicinity, south of Cæsarea and near the sea, that Herod built his great amphitheatre, and these half-buried foundations may have belonged to that edifice.
According to the maps, the region eastwards of Cæsarea belonged to Samaria. It is impossible to accomplish everything in a single tour, but I should delight to pass through the country to Sebůstieh and Nâblus, and thence to Jerusalem. I fancy it would be more interesting than this long stretch of desolate sea-coast.
In some respects it would, yet the route hence to Samaria is singularly barren in Biblical sites. I can give you a brief résumé of that route. Starting from the broken buttress of Herod's harbor, it took ten minutes to force our way through the dense jungle of yellow daisies which covered the ruins of the ancient city. Our Bedawîn guides were careful to keep the animals in what was once a path, before it was hidden by the daisies, which were actually higher than the backs of our horses. They said the whole region was full of old wells, pits, and broken vaults; and not even they themselves would venture to penetrate the jungle for fear of falling into them. I was surprised at the extent eastwards of the ruins, which was clearly defined by the thicket of daisies. Beyond them are sandy downs, in some places loose and shifting; and in half an hour we came to a small brook, which ran into a large marsh called Hadaidûn, and thence into the Zerka. Both brook and marsh derive their name from a deserted village farther south. The marsh was crowded with buffaloes, cropping the coarse grass, and storks wading about in search of frogs and other prey. Turning southeast, we came, in an hour and a quarter, to oak woods, a continuation of the forests of Carmel, and in another hour passed out of them and descended to a brook called by our guide el Khudeiran, which gets its name from a large tell lower down towards the sea. In three and a half hours we crossed the great highway from the north to Ludd, Ramleh, Gaza, and Egypt. The plain of Sharon is here not more than five miles wide from east to west; but as