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CHRISTIANITY IN SHOA.
tians of Shoa, founded upon it, would be one of the grossest impositions that could be palmed upon the reading public. I dare not, in fact, attempt any elucidation of the faith professed by the Negoos and monks of Shoa. They, certainly, have no universal creed, nor any Articles to define what is orthodox belief, and what is not. The chief principle of religion with the heads of the Church in that country seems to be, to think upon
this subject exactly as the Negoos does; for if they do not, they are very soon considered in the light of heretics; and how far the principles of the Negoos accord with those of the Abune, or Bishop of Gondah, may be judged from the fact, that he has often been judged to be in contempt, by that holy father, and threatened with all the terrors of excommunication. I confess myself, therefore, unequal to the task of giving any account of the Christian religion in Shoa. To give a correct one, would require a man educated entirely for the purpose by a long study of the subject in all its relations, as connected with the Greek Church, and the Archbishopric of Alexandria, to enable him to collect, compare, and arrange that chaos of religious opinions that seem to characterize the modern Abyssinian faith; and, more especially, that which is professed in Shoa.
Tellez, in his Travels of the Jesuits in Ethiopia, in the seventeenth century, sums up all that was known in his time, and I do not think that any
more enlightenment has been vouchsafed since to this benighted Church. Speaking of the proclamation of the Emperor Socinios restoring to the Abyssinians their ancient faith, after an unsuccessful attempt to establish the Roman Catholic religion among them, this author remarks, “ This liberty threw them into many errors; for being uncertain what to believe, some of their monks affirmed, that Christ was the Son of God, only by grace; others, that the divinity died with him on the cross, but that he had two divinities, one of which died, and the other survived; others said, one person posed of the two others, confounded the Divine nature with the human; and others, being quite puzzled, cried, ' Christ is true God, and true man, and it is enough to know that.' Nor was there less division about consecrating the cup, some contending it could not be done with any liquor but wine; others, that it should be water discoloured with six or seven raisins. At length, they agreed it should be done as was used at Alexandria ; and finding no abler person to inquire of, they put the question to an Egyptian carpenter, who told them, it was done there in wine; yet they resolved it should be with water and raisins."
This quotation appeared so apt and so true a picture of the present state of Christian belief in Shoa, that I have not hesitated to introduce it here. I should be happy, indeed, to see demonstrated
THE TABEEBAN SECT OR CASTE.
that anything consistent or universal upon that subject is entertained; and in that case I should not mind being told, that I had erred in my conclusions from a want of proper knowledge upon the subject.
It must be observed, however, that in matters of Church ceremony the Shoans affect the formula of the Alexandrian Church. But even on this subject we find that a great schism exists, by the contemptuous disregard of tabots, robes, and all outward show whatever, with which the Tabeeban sect celebrate the rites of their worship. To term these people a sect, is not so correct, perhaps, as to call them a caste, for all artisans in Shoa, and I believe in other parts of Abyssinia, are so designated. Blacksmiths, potters, carpenters, in fact, all manufacturing artisans, are called “ Tabeeb," and, from this circumstance, when first I heard of their mysterious religious rites, I considered that they would be found to be a community of Freemasons. Even now I give them the credit of practising the primitive customs of the early Church of Christ, as it approaches very much to that simple worship of God which, from the internal evidence contained in some of the Church letters of St. Paul, we may suppose to have distinguished the meetings of Christians in the apostolic age. It is from this circumstance, I connect them in origin, singularly enough, with our institution of Freemasonry; although the primitive purity of
DR. BEKE'S GARDEN.
their parent assemblies has been much better preserved in the simple ceremonies practised by the Abyssinian Tabeebs, than in the festive orgies of the mysterious brotherhood of Europe. I quit this subject for a time, and return to Ankobar.
Whilst staying with Dr. Roth, I frequently accompanied him to a small garden attached to the old house, where Dr. Beke resided during his visit to Shoa. On one occasion our attendant dug up a considerable quantity of potatoes, which had been planted by Mr. Krapf. The seedlings had been sent from Tigre, in northern Abyssinia, by Mr. Isenberg, and the return crop seemed very favourable. At present no advantage has resulted to the natives by their introduction, for the hatred which seemed to exist against everything English extended even to the real benefits that were offered to the Shoans.
Who can help regretting the great mistake of the missionary, in calling political aid to his assistance, but he erred solely by his zeal to extend his opportunities of conferring good upon his fellowcreatures. He grieves now for influence, founded upon respect, that is gone for ever; and from my heart I sympathize with him, for the utter prostration of hope that Abyssinia should become the centre of enlightenment for the rest of the unhappy continent of Africa.
Return to Aliu Amba.–Visited by Hy Soumaulee-Complain of
being cheated by Ohmed Mahomed.-Christians of Abyssinia and of the Greek Church generally forbidden the use of tobacco. -Miriam's house and furniture.—Islam contempt for Christianity.—Evening walk.—Begging monks.
This morning, Walderheros having hired a mule for two salt-pieces, we proceeded to Aliu Amba. I was not sorry, on reaching the summit of the ridge in front of Ankobar, to see again the Dinkee vale, stretching away before me, studded with eminences and little hill villages. As nearly as possible in the centre of them all, was the flat circumscribed summit of the rock of Aliu Amba, which we did not lose sight of during the whole hour occupied in descending to its foot. The ride was most tiresome, but my mule had more reason to be dissatisfied than myself, and glad she was to be at length ascending the irregular sized steps of displaced stones, which leads on to the little plain before we reach the first houses in the town. Here she broke into à gallop, and carried me unresistingly across the market-place, and along a narrow winding lane, with thatched houses, each