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door of the hotel, I used to feed every morning with a large piece of bread, which the old mother wistfully looked for and gratefully received, with six juvenile pups hanging to her as she stood. But although such a slight kindness as this is occasionally shown to the dogs, they are as rule very cruelly treated. It is against the law to kill them, and did a Frank kill a miserable maimed animal there would probably be a hue and cry raised against him. But it is not uncommon to see a broken-backed animal, maimed by accident (or design), dragging its paralysed hind limbs after him, or a dog mangy all over, whose life is a burden. I have seen them savagely struck, out of sheer mischief, without exciting any notice from passers-by, and boys especially seemed to delight in doing them mischief. It is very curious to see the excitement among them if a tame dog belonging to some Frank appears in the street. Every dog sets up a barking, and the chorus is taken up from one to another until the whole quarter is aroused; but they do not attack it if it keeps beside its owner. I have seen the same thing at the Jardin d'Acclimatisation in Paris, where there is a considerable collection of dogs confined in a large kennel. On the appearance of a small dog outside they are frantic; and the fever spreads from one to another, so that those which cannot see the intruder take up the chorus, and not one remains mute.
The outskirts or suburbs of Damascus are very pretty. They are particularly well irrigated by canals, for there is an unlimited supply of water. Figs, pomegranates, walnuts, vines, abound everywhere; all within the Abana belt is green and fertile, though beyond all is desert, and thus an advantageous contrast is effected. several pretty villages near Damascus, especially Salahiyeh, on the north side, for some years the residence of Captain Burton, the late consul, and Mrs. Burton. Dining with them at Trieste, after my return from Damascus, Mrs. Burton spoke in raptures of their home at Salahiyeh, of the beautiful climate and the flowers, and not less of the affectionate dispositions and grateful hearts of the native people among whom she was thrown, and of the regret with which she left the place when the chances of official life called them elsewhere. In her fresh and womanly book, "The Inner Life of Syria and Palestine," much information about these things may be obtained, which will well repay perusal, even if we do not refer to the charming and delightful style of the authoress.
Damascus is situated on an elevation of 2200 feet above the sea, which fact, and its abundance of water, help to contribute to its
healthiness. Its population is about 150,000, of whom 15,000 are Christians and 6000 Jews. In 1860 a terrible crisis took place, which culminated in the Druses attacking the city, destroying 6000 houses in the Christian quarter, and massacring 4000 or 5000 Christians of both sexes and all ages,
while many of the women were sold into Turkish harems. This fearful affair, which called for the interference of European governments, has resulted in a better and stricter government between the rival religionists; and while at the present day all is quiet and peaceable in Damascus, we may hope that such horrors may be repressed in future.
(To be continued.)
SCRAPS OF CHURCH HISTORY.
NO. IV. THE GNOSTICS.
The term Gnosticism (from a Greek word meaning knowledge) has been applied to a system largely based upon the Grecian and Oriental systems of mental and moral philosophy, and which in various shapes seems to have been actively engaged in an effort to undermine the Christian faith at a very early period in the history of the Church. Simon Magus was, according to the testimony of several of the early Fathers, one of the first who attempted to incorporate the doctrines with the Gnostic philosophy, and subsequently a large number of sects grew out of the system he propounded.
The principal object of the Gnostics appears to have been to account for the presence of evil in the world, their conclusion being that evil originated and retains its existence in matter.
Matter was believed by some to be eternal, originating, not in the Supreme Being, but in a coeternal though inferior Intelligence. Others, however, believed matter to be an emanation from an inferior Being, who, though originally created by the Supreme, subsequently existed as an indepen
The ideas generally held by the (so-called) Christian Gnostics appear to have been that the Supreme Being resided in the vast Mansions of Light called Pleroma, and that from Him there descended, through a vast succession of Æons, the Demiurgos, who was the God of the Jews, the author of the Old Testament, and the Creator of the world. Man they regarded as a compound being possessed of a corrupt body and a divine soul. The great desideratum of human life
was to free the soul from the evil propensities of the body; in this work man was assisted by the Supreme Being and resisted by the Demiurgos. Those souls that succeed in freeing themselves from the corruptions of matter ascend at the dissolution of their bodies to the Pleroma, and those who fail will at death pass into other bodies successively, until they finally triumph over the Demiurgos. They believed in three kinds of life—the human Pneuma, belonging to the Pleroma, the human Psyche, belonging to the Demiurgos, and the Hyle or matter, which included all bodies, and the evil principles resident therein.
They rejected the Mosaic Law, and the Old Testament Scriptures generally, as the work of the Demiurgos, and regarded the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of the Supreme Being sent to deliver men from the bondage of matter and the control of the Demiurgos. They denied the divinity of the Lord, regarding Him as the highest of inferior creatures, and they also denied that He possessed a real corporeal body, such a body being essentially evil. They considered His visible appearance to be a kind of phantasm, & spiritual shadow, and maintained that He neither suffered nor died in the flesh. They rejected the doctrine of the resurrection of the material body, on the ground that at baptism they came into a state of knowledge which enabled them to triumph over the Demiurgos, and to ascend at death to the Pleroma. One section of the Gnostics advocated the principles of asceticism, while others rejected all distinction between right and wrong as predicated of external actions.
In considering these views of Gnosticism, the greater portion of which was held anterior to the founding of the Christian Church, and which were viewed by the Fathers as entirely inimical to Christianity, it is to be noticed that what appears to be the connecting-link between the Oriental Gnosticism and this (so-called) Christian Gnosticism survives to some extent in the theology of the present day. We allude to the idea that the Lord came into the world to defeat the claims of the God of the Old Testament! We are aware that this is not the usual way of stating the orthodox view of the Atonement, but there is nevertheless a considerable similarity between that view and the view of the Gnostics. The orthodox description of the way in which the Creator of the world treated the whole human race owing to the commission of one sin by our first parents, and the allegation that the Lord had to purchase pardon for the penitent, and even still has to intercede for him though the price has been paid, might surely lead to the conclusion that the Creator was the enemy of man, determined to destroy him but for the efforts of Jesus Christ.
In our future consideration of some of the offshoots of Gnosticism we shall probably have to consider the vagaries into which many professed members of the Church were led through the adoption of the principles we have enumerated.
Many of the earlier Christians disputed the right of the holders of these theories to adopt the title of Gnostics, and Clemens Alexandrinus and many of the Fathers use the term Gnostici, “men of learning and understanding,” to describe the clergy and other members of the Christian Church, preferring to class the heretics we have been describing as Docete, or, “believers in a phantom.”
The Gnostic heresy seems to have been promulgated with some activity at Ephesus during the time that St. John lived there, and St. Jerome and other writers speak of the great aversion which John entertained to these views. The Gospel of John is generally regarded as being specially adapted to answer those who object to the proper deity of the Lord and other Christian truths. The members of the New Church recognise John's Gospel as a conclusive authority of the Divinity, and of the Humanity, and of the Divine Humanity of the Lord. The philosophy of the New Church offers the best solution of the difficulties of Gnosticism, many of which are alive unto this day.
THE NEW HYMN-BOOK.
In the October (1878) number you kindly inserted some remarks entitled “The New Hymn-Book : on what Principle should it be compiled ?” Permit me to advert to one or two points of detail which may perhaps be usefully brought into notice. In examining a number of the most popular and best-beloved hymns, I have found that they are almost uniformly written in the first person, either singular or plural. And in further investigating the reason why many other undoubtedly good poems fail of being good hymns, I have come to the conclusion that in most cases it is from their being written in the second or third person. They answer to all the test principles of doctrine, religious feeling, reference to the Lord, etc., but still they seem to fail in calling forth emotions to make them greatly loved. It seems that exhortations in the form of hymns (as probably
in most other forms) are not applied personally, but passed on to the neighbour. If the writer bids us do some good thing, or practise some virtue, or join in praise, somehow the bidding is not obeyed. I admit that there are hymns forming notable exceptions to this general principle. For instance, the 100th Psalm, "All people that on earth do dwell”—and yet I doubt if those words ever move the hearts of a congregation so much as “My soul, praise the Lord; speak good of His Name," or other old-fashioned hymns of praise written in the first person. The feelings of praise or devotion, or aspiration, cannot be called up at the bidding of hymn-writers by saying, “Let us sing," or "Praise ye the Lord;" and though it may with equal truth be said that hymns written in the first person, such as, “ Jesus, lover of my soul,” cannot ensure calling forth the desired response, yet there is no doubt but that the latter style is more successful than the former. Hymns wholly in the first person, singular number, are the best. These may be sometimes hymns of a reflective or a meditative character, or they may be more directly devotional, but still the powerful “I” is the secret of their success- I think, I speak, I wish, I sing. “The Lord my pasture shall prepare;" "Glory to Thee, my God, this night;" “Quiet, Lord, my froward heart;" "Where can I dwell with such delight;" "Come, my soul, thy suit prepare;" "When gathering clouds around I view :" these are a few hymns that illustrate my point.
Hymns in the first person plural are the next best. The plural we has less power, however, to awaken emotion than the singular number. Still very many of our most useful hymns are in the plural number. “Lord of the Sabbath, hear us pray;" “Great God, we bless Thy mighty Hand;” “Now before Thy presence come, Lord, we bow with holy fear;” “Help us to help each other, Lord,” are examples taken at random.
In this class of “first person” hymns we must include all those beautiful compositions ascriptive of praise, thanks, or glory to the Lord, such as “ Hail to the Lord's Anointed,” in which each person singing feels it to be his own individual ascription. Hymns of mutual aspiration and encouragement, such as the favourite modern hymn “Onward, Christian soldiers," and also hymns purely descriptive, such as "Hark, the herald angels sing,” “Glorious things of Thee are spoken,” “The spacious firmament on high," approach very nearly to
" this "first person ” quality, inasmuch as each person singing may be himself the speaker. And in this especial characteristic lies the secret