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THE HISTORY OF A THOUGHT.
A true thought is an expression of one's entire humanity. Not the understanding alone forms it, nor reason, nor imagination. Each has its part in this mysterious generation, and every sentiment and affection aids to control and determine it. Our judgments are not simple, but complicated of many influences, formed by many observations and the experience of years, lighted by every gleam of sunshine that has cheered, and shaded by every cloud that has darkened our life. The death of a friend may mingle hyssop in our cup of cheer, and long poverty make our life a wearisome pilgrimage ; and the afflicted shall grow sad and murmer over his untasted banquet, and the want-stricken shall curse an unequal providence; yet the mourner but yesterday saw only blessing in the order of the world, and the rich of the last year praised Him that giveth liberally. If our judgment of these high doctrines may be changed by the changes of our outward state, much more will our opinion of lesser things be swayed and varied by passion and pride, by love and fear. The true history of a thought, then, is the history of a life. He only can think nobly who lives nobly. Not more surely does the spice plant of the tropics wither and die among the snows of Siberia, than do generous plans and lofty purposes shrink and shrivel in the bleakness of a heartless mind. The sins and negligences of earliest life have not lost their power till its close. They fasten on him who neglects and sins, like the sloth on the stag's haunches. So the virtues of youth make easier the toils of manhood, and the obedient child becomes the well-governed citizen. And these occult influences and effects are continually disclosing themselves to the eye of the wise observer and skilful interpreter of men. Hence to such an one, conversation is more than a mere exchange of notions. It is the revealing of a mind, -the bringing to light of its peculiar and hidden experience. When a great mind speaks to us, or one that has its individuality, its own peculiar impulses, and has grown by its own law, and not fashioned itself after the model of another, we are every man of us aware of the power of the charm. We feel, moreover, the thought which it utters to be valuable, not merely because it is true, but because it bears evidence of a natural growth in that mind, and partakes of his sympathies and relations; and we admire it, not because it is expressed with precision, or in familiar terms, but because it is thrown out spontaneously, and is the natural language of that mind. We are pleased to see how a simple thought will be recast in the glow of an original conception, or a forgotten truism become living and graceful when it has dwelt in the heart. The varying character and experience of men, as they modify the form in which their conceptions are expressed, modify also the truth conceived. Truth doubtless is
independent of us, and stands for ever in the clearness of its own light. Yet if our eye be not clear, the truth, though bright, is dim to us. To the full apprehension of many subjects, not only is deep thought necessary, but a peculiar life. The inward peace of christian love, and the calm assurance of faith are hardly intelligible to the sensualist and the worldling. The shortness of life cannot be felt in the flush of youth, but how deep its meaning to him of fourscore! We need the painter's eye to comprehend the work of his art. It does not then become us to weigh every man's sentiments in the scales of a mere judgment. When he speaks to us, we look to see not merely what he says, but what he is. A single sentence not only gives us a new opinion, but teaches us how he has lived, and what he has been. And this is a better knowledge, for it is knowledge of man. It comes to us not in his words, but his entire character and action convey it through our sympathies with him, and it is based on our common experience and common nature. Therefore we delight to converse with strangers and foreigners. We hope to acquire new thoughts, but we more wish to see how things familiar to us will strike them. We gain a new point of observation, and the ludicrous becomes grave, and the grave ludicrous. As in matters of daily life, so in the topics of speculative thought. The conceptions of nature in the mind of a savage may be of as much value to a philosopher, as a true theory of the world to the savage. Goldsmith's "Citizen of the World” is no less instructive than entertaining.
A communion with other minds is always profitable, if we are on our guard as to the influences we shall receive. The best fellowship, doubtless, is with that of the strong and the pure. Still we would not always be grave. We would laugh sometimes at our neighbour's witty and peculiar humours. A truly and well developed man must have passed through every variety of experience, and may learn from the companionship of fools, as well as from the wisdom of the wise. The contempt of Voltaire shall teach him an useful lesson, for he must know the barrenness as well as the fulness of humanity. Were we however to select one characteristic which attracts us more than any other, in friends, (and books are friends,) we should name, not undervaluing strength and purity,--earnestness. We would have them indifferent in nothing. They should be fully possessed by whatever subject they are engaged in, be it chasing beetles or constructing a theory of the universe. Earnestness implies a moral appreciation, no less than intellectual energy and purpose. It is a gentle but steadfast enthusiasm. Seeing with the heart, it magnifies, but it holds fast. This trait, though commonly displayed in particular attachments, is usually accompanied by what may be called an universal sympathy, which admires and loves truth and beauty everywhere. This is the spirit of true scholarship. As truth is a crystal of many sides, it sees them all; as it is a pervading principle, it rejoices in every manifestation.
TRAVELS IN PALESTINE.
(Concluded from page 278.]
EXCURSION TO GAZA, HEBRON, AND WADY MOUSA.
On returning to Jerusalem from our preceding excursion, we found the plague slowly, but constantly increasing; and it was rumoured that the city was soon to be shut up. We therefore remained but a single day, in order to make preparation for our longer journey to wady Mousa. This excursion was made only by Mr. Smith and myself, with our servants, and lasted twenty-three days. We set off May 17th on horses and mules; and on the 19th, Jerusalem was shut up, and none suffered to go out without first performing a quarantine of seven days.
We had this time no guard, and no attendants, save our muleteers and a guide. We made at first a slight detour, in order to pass by Beit Jåla, a christian village, half-an-hour north-west of Bethlehem; and then continued south-west across the mountains to the direct ancient road from Jerusalem to Eleutheropolis and Gaza, through a region as yet unvisited by modern travellers. At a distance on our right was the deep valley of Turpentine, or, as it is here called by the Arabs, wady Sărâr, which runs in a south-west direction until it opens out into the great plain between the mountains and the Mediterranean. On our left was another similar valley, wady Súmt. The whole region is full of ruined sites and ruined villages, some deserted, and some partially inhabited. On our right, beyond wady Súrâr, we could see the hill and ruined village Soba, which it has pleased the monks to assume as the ancient Modin, the burial place of the Maccabees, against the express testimony of Eusebius and Jerome. We came at night to Beit Nettîf, a large village on a high part of a ridge between the two vallies above mentioned.
The next day was devoted to a visit to Beit Jibrin, the ancient Betogabris of Greek and Roman writers, of which and its fortress we heard much from the Arabs; and to a search for the site of the ancient Eleutheropolis. From the elevated spot where we lodged, the Shekh of the village pointed out to us several places, celebrated as the scenes of Samson's exploits and history, still bearing names in Arabic corresponding to their ancient Hebrew appellations. Such were Zorah, Timnath, Socho, and others. Four places were also pointed out, respecting which Eusebius and Jerome have specified their distances from Eleutheropolis, viz., Zorah and Bethshemesh towards Nicopolis, and Jarmuk and Socho on the way to Jerusalem. Following out the sp cified distances along the ancient road, we came directly upon Beit Jibrin, which lies among hills, between the mountains and the plain. Here are the remains of a large Roman fortress of immense strength; which was built up again in the time of the crusades. Around it are the traces of an extensive city.
We had received the impression, that we must look for Eleutheropolis further west upon the plain : and accordingly turned our course that way to Safiyeh, a conspicuous village, lying on an isolated hill. Here, however, we found no trace of any ancient site. We then proceeded to Gaza, whence, after two days, we returned by another route searching diligently for the sites of ancient Lachish, Ğath, and other cities; but finding none, except Eglon, on a mound strewed with stones, still called Ajlan. Again arrived at Beit Jibrin, we visited several very singular excavated caverns in the vicinity. Eusebius and Jerome mention also Jedna and Nazib, as being distant from Eleutheropolis, one six, and the other seven miles, on the way to Hebron. These names still exist; and, taking the Hebron route, we found Jedna to be just six miles distant from Beit Jibrin. Nazib lies yet a little further on another parallel road. This circumstance seems to decide the identity of Beit Jibrin with Eleutheropolis. The former was the ancient name,--the latter was imposed by the Romans, and bas been since forgotten. It is also remarkable, that those ancient writers who speak of Eleutheropolis, do not mention Betogabris; while those who speak of the latter, are silent as to the former. Rejoicing in this result, we pursued our way to Hebron : and after a steep and toilsome ascent on a ridge between two deep vallies, we rested for a time at Taffuh, the Beth Tappuah of Juda h, and arrived at Hebron in about six hours from Beit Jibrin.
We had long before formed the plan to proceed to wady Mousa, by way of the south end of the Dead Sea, and so southwards along wady Araba, in the hope of being able to decide the pending question, whether the Jordan could ever have flowed through this valley to the gulf of Akabah. Here too we had hoped again to have been the first, but were anticipated by the French Count, Berthou, who preceded us by three or four weeks, and whom we had seen at Jerusalem, after his return. After being detained two days at Hebron, we set off, May 26th, and passing by Carmel and Maon, and then across a rolling desert in a south-east direction, we came, towards the close of the second day's journey, to the brow of the steep descent leading down to the Dead Sea. This descent is, in all not less than 1500 feet ; but here, and far to the south, it is divided into two offsets of nearly equal height. Between these lies a terrace, nearly three hours broad, the surface of which is covered with low ridges and conical hills of soft chalky limestone, verging into marl. At the foot of the second descent is a small deserted Turkish fort, in the narrow wady Zuweirah, (not Zoar,) which leads out to the sea in about half-an-hour. We reached the shore not far from the north end of Usdum, a low, long mountain ridge, running here, from north-north-west to south-south-east, and giving the same direction to the shore of the sea. This ridge, Usdum, is in general not far from 150 feet high, and continues in this direction for two hours to the extremity of the sea, where it tends to the south-southwest for an hour more, and then terminates. The striking peculiarity of this mountain is, that the whole body of it is a mass of rock-salt ; covered over indeed with layers of soft limestone and marl, or the like; through which the salt often breaks out, and appears on the sides in precipices, forty to fifty feet high, and several hundred feet long. Often also it is broken off in both large and small pieces, which are strewed like stones along the shore, or fallen down as debris.
The south end of the sea is very shallow, and the shore continues quite flat for some distance further south; so that there are traces of its being overflowed by the sea, for two or three miles south of the water line as we saw it. The western side of this southern valley or Ghor, is wholly naked of vegetation ; but on the eastern side, where streams come down from the eastern mountains, there is a luxuriant vegetation and some tillage. We continued on the western side, along the base of Usdum ; crossing several purling rills of transparent water flowing from the mountain towards the sea, but salt as the saltest brine. Before us, as we advanced southwards, appeared a line of cliffs fifty to one hundred and fifty feet in height, stretching across the whole broad valley, and apparently barring all farther progress. We approached the western end of these cliffs, in two-and-a-half hours, from the south end of the sea. They proved to be of marl: and run off from this point in a general course south-south-east across the valley, All along their base are fountains of brackish water oozing out, and forming a tract of marshy land towards the north. Our route now lay along the base of the cliffs; and after resting for a time at a fine gushing fountain, we came in two hours to the mouth of wady Jib, a deep valley coming down from the south, through the cliffs, and showing the latter to be only an offset between the lower plain which we had just crossed, and the higher level of the same great valley further south. The name El-Ghor is applied to the valley between the Dead sea and this offset; further south, the whole of the broad valley takes the name El Araba, quite to Akabah.
These apparent cliffs I take to be the Akrabbim of Scripture. The wady Jib, begins far to the south of mount Hor, beyond wady Ghủ rủndel, and flows down in a winding course through the midst of El Araba, draining off all its waters northwards to the Dead Sea. Where we entered wady Jib, at its northern end, it is half-a-mile broad with precipitous banks of chalky earth or marl, 100 to 150 feet high, and; exhibiting traces of an immense volume of water flowing northwards. It may be recollected, that the waters of wady Jerâfeh in the western desert, which drains the south-east part of that desert far to the southward of Akabah, also Aow northwards into El-Araba, and so, of course, through wady Jib. Hence, instead of the Jordan flowing southwards to the gulf of Akabah, we find the waters of the desert further south than Akabah, flowing northwards into the Dead Sea. The very nature of the country shows, without measurement, that the surface of the Dead Sea must be lower than that of the Red Sea, or the Mediterranean.