網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

The Mahommedan dwellers in Syria may be classed in two divisions, viz. Sonnites, or orthodox Mahommedans, who are also known as Traditionists, who in addition to the Koran pay great attention to the oral teaching said to have descended from the Prophet himself. But the majority are called Druzes, a bold and hardy mountaineer race, who hold some forty villages exclusively, and share two hundred more with the Maronites, with whom however they have lived by no means peacefully, at least of late years. Whatever may have been the merits of the quarrel which took place about the year 1840, there can be no doubt that the fearful Syrian massacres, which at one time enchained public attention, were as much owing to the Maronites, who were the victims, as to the Druzes ; nor do the Maronites appear to have exhibited any of those Christian virtues of charity and forgiveness of which they ought to have set an example.

The Maronites, who appear considerably to outnumber the Druzes, are subject to the Patriarch of Antioch, who acknowledges the supremacy of the Pope. They are, as a sect, of considerable antiquity, and it is believed that they settled in the Lebanon when flying from the persecution of the Emperor Anastasius II. early in the eighth century. Since the massacres, an arrangement has been come to by which both Druzes and Maronites are placed under the authority of the governor of the Lebanon, who is appointed by the Turkish authorities with a view to prevent like outbreaks in future.

In these massacres Zachleh occupied a prominent position, and in 1860 the town was captured by the Druzes, and the greater part of its inhabitants put to the sword, without respect of age or sex. It has now, however, recovered from the effect of these fearful scenes of intolerant violence, and it has all the appearance of a peaceful and prosperous settlement. There is a mission of the Free Church of Scotland settled here, schools are established and other missionary operations are carried on. We rode up the steep and narrow streets, like flights of steps, and were conducted by our dragoman to the house of Mr. Dale, a young American missionary, who has been for two years past established at Zachleh. He appeared to be an earnest young man, and had mastered Arabic so as to be able to speak it fluently. He told us that he was in the habit of paying a missionary visit to the village of Baalbék (which contains four or five thousand inhabitants) about once in a month, and that as we were going to spend Sunday there, he would be glad to take the opportunity of accompanying us as soon as he had made the necessary arrangements. He did indeed overtake us before we were far upon the road, and proved an intelligent addition to our party.

Although in a very steep situation, the houses of Zachleh had an air of comfort which most Syrian villages did not possess. They were all neatly whitewashed, and the roughness of the stone walls is thus concealed, although painfully visible in most Syrian houses, which usually have flat wattled roofs of wood, covered with a thick layer of earth, which is not unfrequently level with the uneven ground at the back, so that one walks sometimes upon a housetop before knowing that one has quitted the soil.

Having ridden down some steep flights of steps, we quitted Zachleh, and proceeded along the valley through orchards and poplar groves for a considerable distance, gradually rising. A curious instance of Mussulman credulity was pointed out, viz. what was said to be the tomb of Noah; but although there may have been giants in the earth in those days, we felt rather faithless upon perceiving that the patriarch's supposed resting place was some seventy yards long. It is probably the remains of an ancient aqueduct. But the Moslem is never at a loss. Every patriarch has his tomb marked out, and many scenes of incidents recorded in the Bible are pointed out to the faithful, in spots where they could not in the nature of things have really happened.

With the slopes of Lebanon on our left, and those of Anti-Lebanon on our right, we travelled up the valley of Cæle Syria. High up on the former side may be descried ruins which some attribute to the house of the forest of Lebanon which Solomon builded, and which is described in 2 Kings vii. 2-12. Then crossing the Litány river, we arrived at a long stretch of new road, constructed, I believe, by the French company. It was well supplied with metal, and had never yet been used—not therefore very inviting. We were informed also by Mr. Dale that the metal was formed of broken-up stones from the ruins of Baalbék; we will hope those of the massive substructure, and not of the beautiful temple, of which Time has already made too great havoc.

After a weary progress of some hours we at length descried afar off, at the foot of the slope of Anti-Lebanon, the still standing columns of the Temple of the Sun, which looked insignificant enough at an hour's distance. Of their grandeur and magnificence on a nearer approach I must, however, speak in another paper.

(To be continued.)

SCRAPS OF CHURCH HISTORY.

NO. 1. THE NAZARENES. When we remember how often the apostles and disciples of the Lord misunderstood the spirit of the Saviour's teaching while He was with them, we cannot be surprised at the fact that differences of opinion as to the doctrines of Christianity began to be manifested at a very early period in the history of the Church. With very imperfect notions of the genius of the new religion, it was to be expected that the early Christians would soon be split up into various sects or schools of thought.': The first notable point of difference was that which ultimately produced the sect of the NAZARENES.

It is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles that at Antioch “certain men which came down from Judæa taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses ye cannot be saved.” This teaching caused no small disputation and dissension in the Church, and Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem, where a general council of the apostles and elders was held to give a deliverance upon the question (A.D. 49). At this council Peter protested against the effort to engraft Judaism upon Christianity, saying, Why tempt ye God to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear ? After Paul and Barnabas had given their testimony to the success of their mission among the Gentiles, the Apostle James proceeded to formally deliver the judgment of the assembly in the following terms: “My sentence is, that we trouble not them which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: but that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath-day.” A letter embodying these views was sent to Antioch, where the difficulty had arisen, by Paul and Barnabas, and the decision seems to have been generally well received and to have conduced to the spread of the Church among the Gentiles (Acts xv.).

Two points arising out of this account are worthy of notice: (1) That in this first general council of the Church there is nothing to lead to the inference that Peter was recognised as the head of the Church on earth; and (2) that the question of how far the law of Moses was binding upon Jewish Christians was left unsettled.

The council, however, had spoken out clearly enough upon one vital point—that salvation was possible outside the pale and without the rites of Judaism. small minority of the Church, however, refused to accept this decision, and became known in after years as the Nazarenes.

The name Nazarene was applied to all the followers of the Lord by their Jewish opponents, and the name was caught up also by their Gentile persecutors, as appears from Acts xxiv. where Tertullus described Paul to the governor of Cæsarea as “a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes." But ultimately this name was repudiated by the Christian Church, except by that portion which for many years still maintained that there could be no salvation without full conformity to the ritual of the Jewish Dispensation.

But gradually the whole Church grew into the perception of the truth that Christianity was not an offshoot of Judaism, but a New Dispensation, and that the things which were “a figure for the times then present were no longer to be held as binding upon the Gentile converts. The growth of this higher conception of the religion of Jesus Christ naturally induced Jewish converts to inquire whether it

was any longer necessary, or indeed desirable, that they should any longer be burdened with representative ordinances belonging to a bygone age.

The sect of the Nazarenes received its deathblow at the taking of Jerusalem by Tinnius Rufus A.D. 135. The Jews were severely punished and laid under heavy disabilities for having revolted against the Roman yoke ; and many Christians being regarded as Jews (although the Christians had absolutely declined to participate in the revolt), they came to a determination to renounce Judaism altogether. They had found out the unwisdom of trying to sew the new cloth upon the old garments.

Up to this time the bishops of Jerusalem had all been Jews by birth, but now the Church appointed a Gentile bishop (Marcus), and the Church was no longer troubled with the question that for nearly a century had produced "no small disputation and dissension."

Some writers affirm that the Nazarenes refused to recognise as authoritative any of the early Christian writings except St. Matthew's Gospel, though they professed great respect for the opinion of the other apostles, and especially for the person and writings of St. Paul.

Upon points of doctrine and of Church government the Nazarenes were regarded as perfectly sound in the faith, and hence Nazarenism has never been promoted to the honour of being accounted a 'heresy."

NO. II. THE EBIONITES. The Ebionites held the views of the Nazarenes upon the question of the ordinances of Judaism, being especially tenacious of the right of circumcision. The sect appears to have had its origin about the year 70 A.D. at a town named Pella, whither the greater portion of the Church of Jerusalem removed after the destruction of that city by Titus.

The origin of the name Ebionites is involved in some obscurity. Tertullian is of opinion that one Ebion was the founder of the sect, while Origen says that the name was derived from a Hebrew word signifying “poor.” This latter opinion seems to carry some weight from the fact that the Ebionites were generally found among

the

poorer classes, and regarded the Lord rather as an humble and crucified Saviour than as the Risen and Glorified Lord.

The Ebionites were accounted heretics, and therefore it is necessary to receive the testimony of orthodox writers concerning them and their views with some degree of reserve.

There is, however, a concurrence of testimony to the effect that though the Ebionites regarded the law of Moses as binding upon Christians they rejected some parts of the Pentateuch and the Prophecies, as well as the Gospels, the Revelation, and the Epistles. It is charged against them that they also introduced a large number of interpolations into the Gospel of Matthew, which they termed “ The Gospel according to the Hebrews."

They were particularly violent against St. Paul, whom they regarded

as an apostate and an enemy of the law of God. Their treatment of the Lord corresponded, as is generally the case with their treatment of the Word. They regarded the Lord as an ordinary man, the son of Joseph and Mary, and believed that the Spirit of Christ descended upon Him at the period of His baptism by John, and consequently they refused to acknowledge Him as the Son of God, or as “the Word made flesh.”

The Ebionites flourished for upwards of three centuries, during which time their system was a cause of much anxiety to the Church. It is generally thought that Paul was alluding to the Ebionites when, prior to his journey to Jerusalem, he solemnly warned the Church at Ephesus against the “grievous wolves” that would come among them after his departure, and that the Hymenæus and Alexander referred to in 1 Tim. i. 20 were prominent preachers of this school, and that Peter referred to Ebionitish falsities in the second chapter of his second epistle.

Indeed, so violent were the Ebionites in their opposition to the doctrines preached by the apostles that many of the Christian fathers speak of it as a Jewish sect, separated from Christianity by a very wide line of demarcation.

And, indeed, we cannot see how those who accept the Gospel account of the Lord and the apostolic version of doctrine as correct could. possibly recognise any affinity between Christianity and Ebionitism. The Deity of the Lord and the sanctity of the Scriptures are the fundamental doctrines of the religion of Jesus Christ; and the attempt of the Ebionites to engraft their views upon the Church can only be compared to the effort to cause the Church to be divided against itself. But under the good providence of the Lord there was sufficient thoroughness in the pioneers of Christianity to repudiate the unholy alliance. Though many a change of front was made during the first three centuries of the Christian era, in whatever form the error showed itself it was recognised, opposed, and repudiated in the most uncompromising manner by the authorities of the Church, though some traces of the heresy remain until this day.

The conduct of the apostles in thus rebuking every effort made to detract from the proper Deity of the Lord is worthy of notice. They adopted the name of Christian, and met from week to week to sing praises to Christ as God; they exalted the Lord as the only Hope and Refuge of a sinful world, and were jealous with a godly jealousy for the honour of their Lord and their God.

This was the first occasion upon which the Church had to do battle with pretended friends, and they were not slack in the performance of their duty. The epistles to the various Churches insisted in the strongest manner upon the authority of the Word and the Divinity of the Lord; for it was necessary in those greatly “perilous times” that the young members should be strictly enjoined to hold fast the profession of their faith without wavering. The Church was to be built up upon the Lord as the chief Corner-stone, and they would

« 上一頁繼續 »