Billeder på siden

noble stream, has been a sacred shrine from Phoenician and classic times. Here the Greeks had their temple to the god Pan, whence the classic name of Panium, corrupted to the modern Banias. Over this fountain Herod the Great built a temple in honour of Augustus. This was probably the "Baal-gad in the valley of Lebanon under Mount Hermon." (Joshua xi. 17.) We entered the grotto and tried to decipher the well-nigh obliterated




Greek inscriptions on the tablets shown to the right of cut on page 10, and more fully shown on this page. All we could make out were some references to the priest of Pan. The domed structure on the cliff is the church of St. George. An ancient moat with ruined walls surrounds the town. In the gardens and narrow alleys may be seen shattered columns of the temples and palaces of Cæsarea-Philippi.

We observed here a curious custom of the people-that of living in booths, made of boughs covered with leafy branches, on their house-tops, for the sake, we learned, of coolness and exemption during the summer from the attacks of scorpions that lurk amid the ruins. Special interest is given the town from its being the northern limity of our Lord's journeys in Palestine, and on this noble terrace, in full view of the stately architecture of the Roman city, our Lord held that memorable conversation with His disciples, recorded in the sixteenth chapter of Matthew, "Whom do men say that I, the Son of man, am?" ending in the affirmation which has become the watchword of the Church of Rome, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

The ruins of Cæsarea-Philippi have crumbled almost into nothingness, but that Church founded upon the immovable rock, Jesus Christ, the true Corner-stone, has been built up in every land. The concensus of the best opinion on the subject is that on one of the neighbouring peaks of Hermon the Master led His three disciples "into an high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light." This glorious mountain, the grandest in Palestine, was surely a fitting place for such a sublime epiphany.

A thousand feet above the town towers the famous castle of Banias, or Es-Subeibah, one of the most majestic ruins in the world. We rode up the steep hillside through olive groves and wheat fields for over an hour, and then left our horses for a scramble up the rocky cliffs and broken battlements into the castle. I was completely astounded at the extent, magnificence and strength of this huge structure. It impressed me as being more than twice as large as the famous castles of Heidelberg or Edinburgh. It is perched on an isolated cliff 1,500 feet above Banias, and is one thousand feet long, and about three hundred in width. Dr. Merrill affirms that it exhibits the work of every period, from the early Phoenician to the time of the Crusaders. The walls,

of immense thickness, rise one hundred feet, while beneath, for six hundred, sink the almost perpendicular sides of the cliff, and for nine hundred more slope abruptly to the fountain of Banias.

At the eastern end of the castle is the acropolis or citadel, 150 feet higher, with a wall and moat of its own of immense strength, a castle within a castle, as described by Josephus. Great arched cisterns and stone chambers could contain an inexhaustible supply of water, grain and other stores. We climbed to a lofty turret where rested, high in air, a bell-shaped monolith which rang

sonorously when struck. A long, dark stairway penetrates far down into the heart of the mountain, and, the Arabs assert, reaches the springs of Banias two miles distant. This, however, seems incredible. A broad, winding road once led down to the

[graphic][merged small]

plain beneath. This is now badly shattered. The view into the tremendous gorge below was one of the most impressive we have ever seen, while in the distance stretched the long slope to the fertile plain of Huleh, laced all over with flashing streams, and to the north the Heights of Hermon, and the hills of Naphtali.

Small wonder that the Danite spies exclaimed of the Plain of Huleh with its rich pastures, its countless herds of buffalo, its clouds of wildfowl of every wing, "It is very good, a place where there is no want of anything that is in the earth."

It was with the utmost reluctance that I could tear myself away from this majestic scene. Long after the rest of our party had gone I lingered behind, and mused amid the solitudes of this venerable castle once resonant with the tread of Crusading and Moslem knights, and perchance with the rude clash of Roman or

[graphic][merged small]

Phoenician arms. At length another group of tourists climbed the cliff and conveyed the somewhat peremptory message from the Judge, that if I did not promptly return they were to throw me over the battlements. Dark clouds were lowering in the sky. The wind rose, and moaned through the crannied vaults and shattered walls, and sighed and whispered amid the olive groves below, and rain began to fall. I therefore surrendered at discretion, scrambled down the cliff and, mounting my faithful Naaman, galloped down the slope, narrowly escaping the fate of Absalom amid the low-branching olives. We dried off before

our charcoal fire, and a good dinner soon made us all right. But all night long the rain poured down and the gusty wind seemed determined to prostrate our tents. Indeed, that of Messrs. Read and Rorke did partially collapse. All this was an ill omen for our ride next day over the shoulder of Mount Hermon.

We have now in our journeyings reached the northern borders of Palestine and the extreme point which our Saviour is recorded as having visited. We have traversed its length and breadth, from Hebron to Cæsarea Philippi, from Jaffa to Jericho. Many of our readers may not be privileged to visit these holy fields, with their sacred memories of patriarchs, prophets, priests and kings; of the disciples, apostles, and of our Lord Himself; but to use the words of Dr. Manning, "All may reach the better country, that is, a heavenly,' of which the earthly Canaan was but a type." Though their feet may not stand within the gates of the Jerusalem on earth, they may walk the streets of the New Jerusalem on high, "the city which hath foundations, whose maker and builder is God."

It has often been said that the Holy Land itself is the best commentary on the Holy Book. Even so sceptical a writer as M. Renan has strongly expressed this sentiment. He says:

"I have traversed in all directions the country of the Gospels, I have visited Jerusalem, Hebron and Samaria; scarcely any important locality of the history of Jesus has escaped me. All this history, which in the distance seems to float in the clouds of an unreal world, thus took a form, a solidity which astonished me. The striking agreement of the texts with the places, the marvellous harmony of the Gospel ideal with the country which served it as a framework, were like a revelation to me. I had before iny eyes a Fifth Gospel, torn, but still legible, and henceforward, through the recitals of Matthew and Mark, in place of an abstract Being, whose existence might have been doubted, I saw a living and moving, an admirable human figure."

With deeper and more tender feeling Mrs. Elizabeth Charles has expressed this sentiment in the following lines:

The pathways of Thy land are little | Still to the gardens o'er the brook it

[blocks in formation]
« ForrigeFortsæt »