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It is no mere ceremony—no mock sorrow; it is the mingled wail of a fallen people. These Jews know as no others of their race can realize the depth of their fall, and they gather here to give it voice — a tonal and visual embodiment of despair. Even I, who am not of that race, felt all at once the deadly clutch of that vast grieving, and knew something of what a young Hebrew, a member of our party, felt when he turned sick and hurried from the spot.
What other race has maintained an integrity of sorrow? What, for instance, does the blood of Imperial Rome care for its departed grandeur? It does not even recognize itself. What other nation has ever maintained racial integrity of any kind? But, then, these were a chosen people!
Chosen, why? Because they were a noble people ? Hardly. Their own chronicles record them as a murmuring, rebellious, unstable race. Following the history of the chosen people from Jacob to Joshua, one is in a constant state of wonder at the divine selection. We may admit that God loved them, but we seek in vain for an excuse. In His last talk with Moses He declared that they would forsake Him, and that He in turn would forsake them and hide His face because of the evils they should do.
Moses, who knew them even better, distrusted them even more. “For I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves,” he said, almost with his latest breath. He told them that curses would befall them, and gave them a few sample curses, any one of which would lift the bark off of a tree. No
wonder he was willing to lie down in Mount Nebo and be at peace.
Yet they are a chosen people-a people apart-a race that remains a race, and does not perish. Chosen for what? To make a bitter example of what a race can do when it remains a race-how high it can rise and how low may become its estate of misery? Remember, I am not considering the Jew as an individual; he is often noble as an individual; and it was a Jew who brought light into the world. I am considering a race—a race no worse than any other, and no better, but a chosen race; a race that without a ruler, without a nation, without a government—that outcast and despised of many nations has yet remained a unit through three thousand years. I am maintaining that only a chosen people could do that, and, without being able even to surmise the purpose, it is my humble opinion that the ages will show that purpose to have been good.
I have already inferred that the landmarks and localities of Jerusalem may be viewed with interest, but not too seriously. They have all associations, but most of them not the particular and sacred associations with which they are supposed to be identified. The majority of them were not located until Christ had been dead for a thousand years, and the means of locating them does not invite conviction. Inspiration located most of them, dreams the rest. That is to say, imagination. Whenever a priest or a dignitary wanted to distinguish himself he discovered something. He first made up his mind what he Copyright, by Underwood & Underwood.
would like to discover, and then had an inspiration or a dream, and the thing was done. The eight Stations of the Cross, for instance, were never mentioned earlier than the twelfth century, and the Via Dolorosa, the Way of the Cross, was not so known until the fourteenth. Still, it must have been along some such street that the Man of Sorrow passed between the Garden and the Cross.
We visited the Garden first. It was now late in the afternoon, and the sunlight had become tender and still and dream-like, and as we passed the traditional places — the house of Pilate, under the Ecce Homo arch, and the others, we had the feeling that it might have been on an evening like this that the Son of Man left the city, and with His disciples went down to Gethsemane to pray.
We were a very small party now—there were only four of us and the guide, for the others had become tired and were willing to let other things go. But if we were tired, we did not know it, and I shall always be glad of that fact.
At St. Stephen's gate (the tradition is that he was stoned there) we stopped to look down on Gethsemane. Perhaps it is not the real site, and perhaps the curious gilt-turreted church is not beautiful, but set there on the hillside amid the cypresses and venerable olive-trees, all aglow and agleam with the sunset, with the shadow of the dome of Omar creeping down upon it, there was about it a beauty of unreality that was positively supernatural. I was almost tempted not to go down there for fear of spoiling the illusion.