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he compared to Paradise. Some valleys on the Western side fully justify this description. Such was the horizon of Jesus. This enchanted circle, cradle of the Kingdom of God, was for years His world.”
This is a glowing description of the “ country of the Gospels,” no doubt; nor is it by any means a purely fanciful one. But from the account which M. Renan gives of it, one thing in particular is strikingly apparent, that he has proved quite to his own satisfaction that the land of the Bible is not " an unreal world,” as it seemed to him to be previously to his having visited and looked upon the “goodly land” for himself. The “History of Jesus," he says, then “ took a form, a solidity, which astonished me.” And so, we may add, since his rule appears to be,
see for yourself and then believe,” if he had, when in the Holy Land, been afforded an opportunity of witnessing “the miracles of Jesus,” they also would have doubtless taken “a form and a solidity,” which would have “astonished” him. The “country of the Gospels he has seen for himself, and has proved it to be as to names, places, existing customs, etc., in exact accordance with the Gospel history; and he therefore so far believes. But his faith, poor fellow, is weak, and he must therefore see in order to believe; but, unfortunately, the miracles and prophesying having all disappeared with the persons to whom they were attributed, not a visible vestige of them remained, and in reference to these therefore, poor Renan is doomed to return with the lament, "I have not seen and therefore cannot believe !”
In immediate connection with the foregoing quotation from Renan, the beautiful scene is somewhat changed. He represents it to be very different now from what it once was. “ The fountain,” he says, “where formerly the life and
gaiety of the little town were concentrated, is destroyed ; its broken channels contain now only a muddy stream. Southwards the more sombre aspect of the Samaritan hills foreshadows the dreariness of Judea beyond, parched as by a scorching wind of desolation and death.” But "even in our times," he continues, "Nazareth is still a delightful abode, the only place, perhaps, in Palestine in which the mind feels itself relieved from the burden which oppresses it in this unequalled desolation."
Again, in describing, as it once was, the country of the Galileans, whom he represents as “an energetic, brave, and laborious people,” he
says : “The country abounded in fresh streams and in fruits ; the large farms were shaded with vines and fig trees ; the gardens were filled with trees bearing apples, walnuts, and pomegranates. We may judge of this by some enclosures in the neighbourhood of Nazareth. The aspect of the great farms is still well preserved in the south of the country of Tyre (ancient tribe of Asher). Traces of the ancient Palestinian agriculture, with its troughs, threshing floors, winepresses, mills, &c., cut in the rock, are found at every step. The saddest country in the world is, perhaps, the region round about Jerusalem. Galilee, on the contrary, was a very green, shady, smiling district, the true home of the Song of songs and the songs of the wellbeloved. During the two months of March and April the country forms a carpet of flowers of an incomparable variety of colours. The animals are small and extremely gentle :delicate and lively turtle doves; blue birds so light that they rest on a blade of grass without bending it; crested larks, which venture almost under the feet of the traveller; little river tortoises, with mild and lively eyes; storks, with grave and modest mien, which, laying aside all timidity, allow man to come quite near them, and seem almost to invite his approach. In no country in the world do the mountains spread themselves out with more harmony or inspire higher thoughts. Jesus seems to have had a peculiar love for them. The most important acts of His Divine career took place upon the mountains. It was there that He was the most inspired ; it was there that He held secret communion with the ancient prophets; and it was there that His disciples witnessed His transfiguration.
“ This beautiful country has now become sad and gloomy through the ever-impoverishing influence of Islamism. But still everything which man cannot destroy breathes an air of freedom, mildness, and tenderness, and at the time of Jesus it overflowed with happiness and prosperity.”? And in a note he adds: “The horrible state to which the country is reduced, especially near Lake Tiberias, ought not to deceive
These countries, now scorched, were formerly terrestrial paradises. The baths of Tiberias, which are now a frightful abode, were formerly the most beautiful places in Galilee. Josephus extols the beautiful trees of the plain of Genesareth, where there is no longer a single one."
Of “the valley in which the Lake of Tiberias is situated," Renan further remarks : “Let us run over it step by step, and endeavour to raise the mantle of aridity and mourning with which it has been covered by the demon of Islamism. . . The lake, the horizon, the shrubs, the flowers, are all that remain of the little canton, three or four leagues in extent, where Jesus founded His Divine work. The trees have totally disappeared. In this country, in which the vegetation was formerly so brilliant that Josephus saw in it a kind of miracle---Nature, according to him, being pleased to bring hither side by side the plants of cold countries, the
i Pp. 75, 76.
productions of the torrid zone, and the trees of temperate climates, laden all the year with flowers and fruits,-in this country travellers are obliged now to calculate a day beforehand the place where they will the next day find a shady resting-place. The lake has become deserted. A single boat, in the most miserable condition, now ploughs the waves once so rich in life and joy. But the waters are always clear and transparent. ... The heat on the shore is now very oppressive. The lake lies in a hollow 650 feet below the level of the Mediterranean, and this participates in the torrid conditions of the Dead Sea. An abundant vegetation formerly tempered those excessive heats. Josephus considered the country very temperate. No doubt there has been here, as in the Campagna of Rome, a change of climate introduced by historical causes. It is Islamism, and especially the Mussulman reaction against the Crusades, which has withered as with a blast of death the district preferred by Jesus. The beautiful country of Genesareth never suspected that beneath the brow of this peaceful wayfarer its highest destinies lay hidden. Dangerous countryman ! Jesus had been fatal to the country which had the formidable honour of bearing Him. Having become a universal object of love or of hate, coveted by two rival fanaticisms, Galilee, as the price of its glory, has been changed to a desert."
M. Renan was, perhaps, not aware that in thus describing from personal observation the very remarkable change that had taken place in that once beautiful and fertile country, as described by ancient authors, he was in reality writing in confirmation of ancient prophecies relating thereto - prophecies many hundreds of years before recorded in the Bible, and now literally fulfilled, and their fulfilment confirmed by the observation and researches of a man who is an openly
avowed enemy to all revealed religion, and who regards the prophecies of Scripture relative to the Jewish nation and the world's Redeemer as nothing more nor less than “ a gigantic dream!”
It is to mutable “nature” and 66 Islamism,” says M. Renan, that this wonderful change in the general aspect of things in that once-favoured land is traceable. It is to
Islamism only as the secondary cause, say we. cities shall be laid waste, and the land shall be desolate," was the repeated declaration of the Most High respecting it. Primarily, therefore, it is to the curse of God, as predicted by its own prophets. It is the verification of Scripture, the fulfilment of prophecy, and an earnest of what is yet to take place in that land of "unequalled desolation." Sin-stricken and crushed to the earth as for generations that down-trodden people has been, there is yet hope for them. It gleams through the prophecies of Holy Scripture, and is, therefore, in the mind and purpose of their Divine Author. “God can create, and He can destroy.” God can “break down ;” He also can “ build up.” And when “the fulness of the Gentiles” shall have come in, further predictions relative to the Jewish nation will, before a wondering world, and to the eternal confusion of the “discreet doubters' alluded to by M. Renan, be literally fulfilled. Although
dispersed among the Gentiles” over the entire face of the earth, as was predicted of them thousands of years ago, when God threatened to visit them for their sins and punish them for their iniquities, in this widely-scattered state they are, by the special providence of God, unlike all other scattered nations of the past, preserved as distinct and peculiar a people as when having a national existence in their own land-their national character, enthusiasm,
i See Ezek. xii. 20; Isa. vi. II; Lev. xxvi. 33 ; Deut. xxviii, 64.