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Writing from Egypt some time ago, Mrs. Lewis, referring to their reception at the convent at Mount Sinai, says:
"We were received by the monks with great cordiality. Among the Syriac books which they showed us, I soon picked out a volume of 178 leaves, nearly all glued together with some greasy substance. I separated them, partly with my fingers and partly with the steam of a kettle. It had the more fascination for me that no human eye had evidently looked upon it for centuries, and I soon perceived that it was a palimpsest, whose upper and later writing contained the stories of saintly women, whilst the under or earlier one was the four Gospels. I therefore determined to photograph the whole of the palimpsest.”
The work of transcribing the first writing is well advanced, and before long the whole message of this remarkable manuscript will be told.
The discovery of precious metals is not of such vital importance as the digging up from the heavy shadows of far-off vanished years records which touch directly the greatest and best communications that have ever moved and blessed this world. Heroic men, and women too, inspired by loftiest and purest aims have dared the furious passions of half-civilized tribes; for months and even years have relinquished the refinements and pleasures of society, home and friends, and have gone through the solitude of the far-stretching deserts; have mastered the most difficult languages of earth, have come face to face with imminent peril and barbaric prejudice, that they might stand on historic ground, mark the spot where epoch-making influences and events have reached a crisis, and where empires have breathed their last and laid themselves down in their lone and colossal graves.
These high-priests of the spade and indomitable apostles of discovery have despised no toil or sacrifice, if they could only snatch some record just about to vanish into the great sea of forgetfulness, or lift from the obscurity of their long-sealed tombs, some document or testimonial which might bear in its dusty and century-dimmed leaves messages brighter in their meaning than the loveliest robe of sunbeams, and of more account in the intellectual and moral markets of the world than the rarest jewel that ever flashed in a monarch's crown. To say that many such splendid relics have been rescued from the ruin, darkness, ignorance, prejudice and destructive influences of the past is only stating what is one of the delightful and inspiring facts which greet us as we look abroad among the treasures and priceless spoils of the world of to-day.
Then what tedious, patient, heroic labour has been expended
to read through and below the upper or second, and sometimes third writing, the first faint record which the palimpsest or parchment contains! The most searching gaze, and toil of the brightest, keenest eyes, the most powerful glasses known to science, supplemented with all manner of chemical revivers and finest photographic equipments, have been required to reach down the deep, dark valley of still deepening shadows, and accomplish a resurrection of the almost perished lines. If these old parchments had lips to tell all that they have seen in their pilgrimage through the glory and wreck of old-time nations, of the massive vice and ignorance, the burning passions, the bright and glowing phases of this world's dramatic career, it would be a story full of pathos and of power. The best learning of the century hails with intense gratification these scarred, begrimed and age-worn documents, bringing, as they do, in their hoary pages fresh corroborations of important truths, and of a literature of untold value in the mental and religious education of the world. And yet, older than the oldest papyrus, or parchment, or monumental pillar, is the record in the massive chronicles and literature of the hills and rocks beneath our feet. The earth is its own biographer, and keeps its diary with the cold impartiality of a recording machine. The earlier chapters in this oldest book are like the under writing of the palimpsest, but the geological ages are giving up their secrets, and this old library of stone is being read as never before. Someone has said, that
"The globe is a hoary old volume Whose leaves are the layers of
And on them, in letters of fossil,
"To read it we gather the fossils
And tracks where the Saurians trod
And bring them in patience together The hieroglyphics of God." The earth is all covered with memoranda and signatures, and every object is scribbled o'er and o'er with hints whose meanings are being deciphered by processes which cannot but win our admiration and applause. And more wonderful still is the living palimpsest,-the human, conscious documents with which the world is strewn to-day, and on which the spirit of evil has scrawled his obscene characters, but under which is deeply hidden, and in many cases apparently obliterated, the first writing of God on the human soul. The worst of influences have been at work to despoil and forever erase the Divine handwriting in the constitution of the human spirit, but amid all the confusion and strife of pernicious tongues, there is a teacher and a book which searches all things, yea, the deep hidden things of God. The work of restoration is going on by and through the
grace and mighty spirit of God. The original lines are coming into view in many a soul, and the whole nature is being cleansed and recovered by the redeeming Gospel of the Son of God.
Coleridge rested his faith in the Divine origin and authority of the Scriptures, because of their power to find him at deeper depths of his being than any other book had ever done or could do. Let us be thankful that the wonderful literature, whether in parchment, palimpsest, in the leaden leaves of earth's old, old volumes of soil or stone, or in the mysterious and thrilling book of a human life, is being read with an intelligence and interest as never before.
THE SILENT CITY.
BY IDA H. WILSON.
ITs streets are girt about with grass and clover,
Sigh gently and caress them as they pass.
In sheltered nooks where cool green shadows nestle,
While others sleep upon some sunny hillside,
Where bees' low hum is heard among the flowers,
Are breathing perfume through the summer hours.
A silence which for aye would be unbroken
In hope we raise them ere those tears are shed.
PEOPLE'S BANKS-HOW TO SAVE MONEY.
BY THE REV. R. CORLETT COWELL.
THE substance of Mr. H. W. Wolff's recently-published book on this subject amply justifies the sub-title, A Record of Social and Economic Success. The idea at the root of these efforts seems to be that capital and labour are not necessarily antagonistic, as many assume; that the gulf that too often divides them can be best bridged by making the working-man largely his own capitalist, and thus blending opposing interests into one; and that this can be done by establishing People's Banks and thereby creating sufficient capital to provide abundant employment.
People's Banks have succeeded on the Continent. have been added to the wealth of the countries where they flourish, untold misery has been averted in hard times, and they have brought to men on the verge of beggary employment and the means by which they might begin the struggle afresh. These banks are a practical application of the principle of selfhelp, and are thus preferable to the socialistic methods of State endowment. They say, "Save; make the most of your pence alike in accumulation and in outlay."
In Germany, by means of these banks, numbering thousands, homeless labourers have been turned into owners of their own land, and broken-down journeymen into thriving traders; and commerce and industry stimulated, and poverty practically banished from the villages in the fertile valley of the Rhine, in the barren Westerwald, and in the wild Rhön mountains. This has been done also in Italy. £80,000,000 a year passes through the People's Bank in Milan, and the stream is rapidly increasing in volume. Most of the transactions are small; the business is genuinely "the people's." Drafts of ten lira (two dollars) are not uncommon. There are nine hundred banks of this order in Italy, doing a full third of the country's banking. The result is that the people are building, and making roads, and engaging in all kinds of labour without any middleman to control or pocket the profits. The same is true in the valley of the Rhine. Cultivation has improved, machinery and the best manures and feeding stuffs have been purchased at the cheapest wholesale prices, and small industries and trades have been developed. Sober political economists like M. Rostand and M. Léon Say speak in glowing language of the success of these
banks in this district. This, they declare, is "a community whose resources multiply a hundred fold the productive power of its labour." It seems as if "a new world had been called into existence to redress the balance of the old."
The moral results are superior to the material. The idle man has become industrious, the spendthrift thrifty, the drunkard sober. The transformation reads like a fairy tale, but is vouched for alike by the judge officially reporting and the pastors of the flock, by Ministers of State and men of business. And the Governments are steadily encouraging these institutions as an effective barrier against the inroads of Socialism.
The People's Banks commenced with next to nothing. Those established by Herr Schulze-Delitzsch, the chief pioneer of these banks in Germany, had a very paltry beginning; now they dispense to trade and industry annually about £180,000,000 in loans. The Milan bank started with £28, and has now a paid-up capital of £500,000. Others have grown similarly. They have been built up by men making "an heroic levy on their daily wages."
Honesty is here capitalized, and usury, in the evil sense, is abolished. Men have been delivered from the avaricious moneylender. It is proved that the honest poor are quick to save, shy to borrow, and sure to pay. They value the money because they are their own benefactors. They create the capital which they lend, and they deal scrupulously with it, because they do but guard their own.
The very interesting history of this movement we can only touch. Schulze picked up the idea from Biski, an obscure jeweller, who died a Federal soldier in the United States. He soon gave it shape. His appointment as "patrimonial judge" brought him into frequent contact with the common people, with whose sufferings he deeply sympathized. He resolved to attempt to alleviate their sad lot; and, first of all, in conjunction with Dr. Bernhardi, he set on foot a provident fund, then a co-operative association for buying raw material for the village joiners and shoemakers; after this, he established his first "Credit Association," which has developed so marvellously. He is described as "a born economic missionary," of convincing eloquence, contagious enthusiasm, and invincible faith in his cause. He cared at least as much for the moral effects of his system as the material.
Mr. Wolff writes also of the Raiffeissen Loan Banks, which keep the borrowers' interest steadily in view, and aim most of all at social benefits. Raiffeissen was Burgomaster in a bleak forest district, with a union of twenty-five parishes to administer.