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It is the biggest humbug in all Christendom. Of the scores of sites and relics enclosed within its walls, it is unlikely that a single one is genuine. With all respect to Queen Helena's talent for dreams, her knowledge of Scripture must have been sparing, or she would have located Calvary outside the walls of Jerusalem. This place is in the heart of the citywas always in the heart of the city, in spite of all gerrymandering to prove it otherwise; and it was more of a flat or a hollow in the time of Christ than it is now.
As for the other traditions and trumpery gathered in this ecclesiastical side-show, they are unworthy of critical attention. Probably not one in a million of the readers of Innocents Abroad but thought the finding of the Grave of Adam one of Mark Twain's jokes. Not at all; it is located here under Calvary, and the place from which came Adam's dust (the Centre of the World) is close by. Then there is that Stone of Unction, which every one of intelligence knows to be a fraud, and there is the stone which the angel rolled away, and Adam's skull—they have that, too.
It would seem that the human animal had exhausted his simian inheritance then. But no, he can never exhaust that-it is his one limitless gift. He has gone right on adding to his heap of bones and crockery, enlarging the museum from time to time to make room. And he will add more. The future is long, and it is only a question of time and faith when he will bring over the tombs of the patriarchs from Hebron, the Grotto of the Nativity from Beth
lehem, the House of Judas from Damascus, and the Street that was called Straight Oh, he can do it! A creature who can locate the Holy Sepulchre, the Grave of Adam, the Centre of the World, Mount Calvary, and fifty other historical sites all within the radius of a few feet, and find enough of his own kind to accept them, can do anything. As an insult to human intelligence and genuine Christian faith, I suppose this institution stands alone.
Do the priests themselves, the beneficiaries, believe it? Perhaps-at least some of them do. There is nothing so dense, so sodden, so impenetrable as priestly superstition. Not a ray of reason can enter a mind darkened for a lifetime by ceremonials in which candles, chantings, swinging censers, and prostrations are regarded as worship. Could you produce any evidence that would appeal to the minds of those figures that march and countermarch, and carry tapers and chant among these frauds and fripperies of their faith? Hardly—they would not care for evidence. What they want is more superstition; more for themselves—more, always more, for their followers; the more superstition, the more power, the more baksheesh. They have no use for facts and testimony. They can create both to fit the need. Let any corner of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre become vacant, and immediately some prelate will dream that it is the true place where Balaam's Ass saw the angel with the flaming sword, and they will promptly consecrate the spot; then they will excavate and find the sword and a footprint of the angel, also a piece of the Ass, and they will make a saint of Balaam, and very likely of the Ass, and they will set up an altar and get a sign-painter to make a picture of the vision, and the people will contribute prayers and piastres, and yell baksheesh at every traveller to keep the high priests of Balaam in food and funds.
Strange that we who regard the Mohammedan pilgrim with disdain or compassion, on his journey to Mecca and Medina, excuse or condone the existence of a shrine like this. The Prophet's birthplace and tomb are at least authentic, and it was his desire that his followers should visit them. They are acknowledging a fact. These people are supporting a fraud.
And then the pity of it! The remembering that it was for this trumpery thing those mighty crusades swept like a flame across Europe, robbed her of her chivalry, and desolated a million homes; for this that gallant knights put on their armor and rode away under the banner of the Cross, shouting, “God wills it!" For this that men have drenched more than one nation with blood and changed the map and history of the world!
True, one may not altogether regret the crusades. They made romance and the high achievement to be celebrated in picture and in song. It was fine, indeed, to ride away in shining mail in a vast army in which all were officers-splendid knights battling for glory in a cause. Aching hearts and forsaken homes were plentiful behind, yet even they reflected the glamour of romance, the fervor of a faith.
But there was one crusade in which there was neither romance nor glory-nothing except heartbreak and anguish, and the long torture of the years. That was the Children's Crusade — the crusade in which fanaticism spelled its last word — when a countless number of children of all ages, as young as seven some of them, flocked to the standard of a boy of seventeen and wandered off down through Europe, to faint and fall and die by hundreds and by thousands from hunger and heat and thirstmoaning and grieving unheeded among the stones and bushes—to reach the Mediterranean at last, a scattered remnant, there to be taken on board some vessels and sold into slavery in Algiers!
There was no glory, no triumph however imaginary, in that crusade; no romance, no glamour after the first day's march. It was only weariness and torture after that—only wretchedness and the fevered cry for the comfort of a mother's arm. And all for the sake of this dime-museum of faith, this huge ecclesiastical joke. The pity of it, indeed! Here to-night, a stone's-throw away, my heart bleeds for those little weary feet struggling on and on, for those little fainting souls, moaning, grieving, trying to keep up, lying down at last to coax the blessed release of death, and I would like to stand here on the housetops of Jerusalem and cry out against this insult to the memory of One who, when He said, “Suffer little children to come unto me,” could hardly have foreseen that His words would bear such bitter fruit.
I do not do it, however. I want to live to get home and print this thing, and have it graven on my tomb.
TWO HOLY MOUNTAINS
W E set out early next morning for Mount Moriah,
V the site of Solomon's temple and those that followed it.
It was really David's temple in the beginning, undertaken to avert a pestilence which he had selected from three punishments offered by the Lord because he, David, had presumed to number his people. A Hebrew census was a sin in those days, it would seem, and seventy thousand of the enrolled had already died when David saw an angel with a drawn sword—the usual armament of an angel-standing by the threshing-floor of Ornan the Jebusite. Through Gad, his Soothsayer, David was commanded to set up an altar on that spot, to avert further calamity. Negotiations with Ornan were at once begun, to the end that Ornan parted with the site for "six hundred shekels of gold, by weight”; the threshing-floor was quickly replaced by an altar, and here, on the top of Mount Moriah-on the great bowlder reputed to have been the sacrificial stone of Melchizedek—and of Abraham, who was said to have proffered Isaac here -King David made offering to the Lord, and was answered by fire from heaven on the newly erected altar. And the angel "put up his sword again into the sheath thereof."