« PreviousContinue »
sing, snout, and rejoice in prosperity. The Lord loveth the gates of Zion; and David exclaims, Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in. And remembering that all, both great and small, must enter by them, it is not far-fetched or unnatural to speak of the gates of death. And who has not felt the solemn admonition, Strive to enter in at the strait gate, and shuddered lest he should be swept along by the thoughtless crowd through the wide gate that leadeth to destruction? I have seen these strait gates and narrow ways, “with here and there a traveler.” They are in retired corners, and must be sought for, and are opened only to those who knock; and when the sun goes down, and the night comes on, they are shut and locked. It is then too late.
I see we shall never get into the city, if we sit here conversing about gates until the subject is exhausted.
Move on, then; but allow me to remark, as we enter, that gates have the same kind of names now as in ancient times, generally derived from some accidental circumstance connected with them. One is Bab el Bahar, because it leads to the sea. That near which the tanners carry on their business is Bab el Dubbâgâ. This one is Bab es Surraiyeh, because the governor's palace is near it. And thus, too, the streets and different quarters of the city derive their names. Those who follow the same trade congregate in the same street. This is saddlers', the next blacksmiths' street, and so on to the end of the list.
Here is something new, I'll engage; sufficiently Oriental, also, though “not according to Scripture.” This old man sitting by the mosque is a letter-writer. He has his paper near him, and his scissors to trim it to the required shape and size. He has taken the ink-horn, or what answers to that very ancient article of the “scribes," from his girdle, and is now pointing one of those “reeds” which prophets and scribes so often mention. All this seems Biblical enough. But here comes a woman, veiled from head to foot, and takes 1 Psalm xxiv. 7.
Luke xiii. 24, 25, and Matt. vii. 13.
her station by his side. See, she is whispering from behind her veil the desired message. That is sufficient; the salams, love, etc., etc., go in according to rule, and to all alike.
Why, this is a sort of Moslem confessional, and that fellow's head must be crammed with the secrets and the scandal of half the city.
No matter; I suppose, like other confessors, he keeps dark, and may be trusted. Still, this letter-writing would not be a very thriving business in our country.
How every circumstance and incident carries one back to ages remote and primitive! This veil reminds me of Rebekah and her meeting with Isaac. But I see here and there a woman without it.
Yes; but they are peasants from the country, or else Rebekah's fair daughters, who now utterly refuse to follow her modest example. She put on a veil before her betrothed husband; these resolutely assert their “rights,” and their
pretty pale faces are every where seen unveiled. They have, however, certain laws of modesty, which are most rigidly enforced. For example, a Jewish matron must on no account allow her own hair to be seen. Hence, no matter how luxuriant and beautiful, it is carefully concealed under their curious head-dresses; and what appears to be hair is either silk imitation, or it is borrowed. Then, by a strange perversity of manners, or silly antagonism to Christianity, the men take pride in cultivating and exhibiting long, curling locks. There go several of these Jew dandies at this moment, with their cherished locks flowing round their ears and necks in pretty curls.
Talking of Jews and Jewesses, and veils and hair, reminds me of that difficult passage in Paul's letter to the Corinthians.” Do the customs of the East in such matters throw any light upon it?
I will state facts; you must judge for yourself how far they elucidate what is obscure. The words “praying and prophesying” include all the ordinary parts and acts of public worship. The language of Paul implies that, in these countries and at that time, the laws of modesty and propriety required the women to appear in their assemblies with their heads covered and their faces veiled. The men, on the contrary, should be uncovered. It is remarkable that in their synagogues the men in our day keep on their hats or other head-dresses, and those who read the service throw a large veil over the head and shoulders, as if in direct and intentional contradiction to the Apostle. The women, if present at all, are unveiled. Now, if these are original Jewish habits and practices, it is plain that the Christian Church, from the very first, established new customs in these respects. It is supposed that the men are required to worship with heads uncovered, as a tacit acknowledgment of Christ's divine presence among them; and a relic of this form of reverence may still be seen in Oriental churches, where all stand uncovered when the Gospel which contains the words of Christ is read. Or these directions of the Apostle may
' 1 Cor. xi. 3–15.
merely be part and parcel of those modifications and adaptations by which the Gospel was (as Paul says of himself) to become all things to all men for their salvation. The mixture of Oriental Christians with heathen Greeks, Romans, and other Occidental tribes, in their worshiping assemblies, would doubtless render necessary á careful compliance, on the part of the women, with their ideas of feminine modesty and propriety. And the farther eastward the Gospel spread, such compliance would become more and more important. At the present day, the missionary finds it strictly necessary, in many places, not only that the women should be veiled, but also that there should be a separate apartment for them, screened from the gaze of the men. The Apostle rebukes severely any approach toward immodesty. If the woman is determined to sit in the midst of such mixed assemblies, with a bold and impudent face, aping the men, then let her head be shorn or shaved like that of the men. What that means at this day you can easily see by looking into this barber's shop over the way.
Well, that is strange enough; he has actually shaved the entire head bare as the palm of my hand. It is a hideous operation, and verily it would be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven. But what do you make of the tenth verse of this remarkable passage?
The word translated "power" is perhaps a mere symbolic title of the veil itself; nor is the figure altogether strange or unintelligible to an Oriental. The veil is, in fact, the beautiful ladies' strength and defense. Modestly veiled, she appears any where and every where in perfect safety. She is held inviolate by a sensitive and most jealous public sentiment, and no man insults her but at the risk of being torn in pieces by an infuriated mob; but without the veil she is a weak, helpless thing, at the mercy of every brute who may choose to abuse her. The veil is therefore the virtuous woman's "power,” and whenever she appears in public she ought to have this "power on her head;" in church, “because of the angels;" that is, the messengers and ministers, as I suppose. The women must be modestly veil
ed, because they are to sit in the presence and full view of the ministers, comparatively strangers to them, and many of them evangelists from foreign nations. Doddridge thinks it indecent to suppose that the ladies must be veiled, lest by their attractions they disturb the minds of the ministers. Such an idea could only be entertained by one ignorant of the power of Oriental customs in these matters. The oldest and most eminently modest native preacher that I am acquainted with, objected not only to the ladies appearing unveiled (and for the very reason alluded to), but he would not have even their voices heard in the singing of the Church, because in this country they never sing but in strains de