« PreviousContinue »
SUNDAY TEACHERS' TREASURY.
MEMORABLE PLACES OF SCRIPTURE HISTORY.
HEBRON. What a number of associations does period it must have been in a flourishthe name
" Hebron " call forth to ing state, as it would seem to have the Biblical student! and, if he be been held in high estimation. It lies thoughtfully, philosophically dis- south-south-west of Jerusalem, at a posed, what melancholy feelings arise distance of twenty-one miles, and is when he reflects upon its past great. situated in the valley of Eshcol, in a ness and its present abasement and rather low position, but not wanting insignificance! One of the oldest in pleasing effect to the eye of the cities of Palestine, near to which traveller. Its ancient name dwelt Abram, "in the plain of Kirjath-arba ; which means the city Mamre, which is in Hebron ;” in of Arba, the progenitors of that which dwelt Isaac, in “the city gigantic race the Anakim. Concernof Arbah, which is Hebron ;” once ing this people, opinion is somewhat held worthy to be the residence divided ; and, as they have been more of King David, before he conquered or less connected with this ancient Jerusalem, “where David himself city, a few words about them will and his men were wont to haunt: not be inappropriate in this place. now is it a poor, mean, unimportant Some Biblical critics do not conplace, inhabited by scarce 5000 sider the Anakim to be Canaanites, people. Its grapes, its vines, and from their being omitted from the its fruits still flourish and abound ; list of devoted nations; others conits scenery is still varied and pic- clude, from the fact that mention is turesque: but the place itself stands always made only of three indithere, another testimony to the great- viduals or families, that the name is ness and power of that Creator in appellative rather than gentile, and whose will rests the ordinance of all that the Anakim were only certain things, in whose hands man is but tribes of the numerous and powerful as the dust of the earth-another Amorites, who were distinguished testimony to the poverty and feeble- for their immense stature. Still, that ness of our earthly state.
they were a mighty people cannot be Hebron may be regarded as one of questioned ; for we find the men the oldest cities in the world, having whom Moses sent to search the land been in existence in the time of of Canaan speaking of them as a Abraham, nearly, two thousand years strong people, having walled cities before Christ; and even at this and very great, amid whom were
seen the children of Anak; men of and grandeur. But the pious mind great stature; giants, the sons of will thrust these gaudy surroundings Anak, which come of the giants, in on one side, and wander in thought the presence of whom the messengers far back into the ages to the simple, by their own report felt themselves unsophisticated home, primitive dwarfed to the insignificance of grass- | Mamre," where Abram and Isaac hoppers. The destruction of this sojourned." people by Joshua, and the flight of Hebron is now called El-Khulîl, those who survived to the land of “the friend of God,” in allusion to the Philistines, is well known to the Abraham. Of the inhabitants of the student of Scripture. From the fact place upwards of fifty families are of the fugitive Anakim taking Jews; and it is said that hostilities refuge in the strong places of Gaza, are continually occurring between Gath, and Ashdod, it has been sup
the El-Khulîlites and the Bethlehemposed that Goliath must have been ites, who are distant but a few miles one of the race. The word “ Anak," south. There is a glass manufactory it may be stated, means necklace; in the town ; but the vine, which is and Anakim” is said to mean so unusually prolific in the neigh“long-necked men,” or men of great bourhood, is not turned to account height.
in the manufacture of wine. This "The place was called the brook perhaps is due to the presence of a Eshcol, because of the cluster of large number of Mohammedans, grapes
which the children of Israel whose religious code of course does cut down from thence (Num. xiii. not allow of their partaking of that 24).” Here we have the explanation liquid. These people are also mainly of the name of the narrow valley in the cause why so few pilgrims visit which Hebron is situated, “Eshcol" the site of ancient Hebron, as the meaning a cluster of grapes. The followers of Mohammed offer conplace is still famous for the produce siderable obstruction to all travelof the vine, for pomegranates, figs, lers. and olives. A church was erected The scenery around Hebron—we in Hebron by the mother of Con- cannot adopt any other than the stantine, the Empress Helena, on familiar Scripture designation-is the spot where Abraham is supposed really delightful. Hills and valleys, to have been buried; but it has forests of oak and fir, and open spots since been converied into a mosque. of country, all contribute to the At the present time to the eyes general effect. The land, too, is of the curious traveller there are well cultivated ; evidences of which tombs shown, said to be those of the are afforded in the prospect of patriarch and his family. Those who numerous fields of corn and other are sufficiently credulous no doubt crops, amid which are to be seen will look upon them with a feeling numerous busy labourers, with nobleof reverence and surprise. It may be looking cattle interspersed, all workmentioned, however, that the real ing in the glowing sunlight, engaged tombs are stated to be beneath the in rural occupations, which are building, and that the locality of these doubtless carried on with similar tombs is purely matter of tradition. implements and in the same simple Palls of various-coloured silk are modes as in patriarchal times. called into requisition to set off the There is one curiosity in connecplace with an air of attractiveness tion with the surrounding country,
about which it will not be wise to Hebron, when the Hebrews invaded give the imagination too much the Palestine ; its assignment to Caleb ; rein-Abraham's oak. This oak, its becoming a city of refuge ; Josephus tells us, was called Ogyges. David's choice of it as a residence ; It is about a mile from Hebron, its apportionment to Judah under and is situated amid a cluster of Rehoboam ; and many other cirvineyards beside a spring of pure cumstances, which space will not water. The oak is one of the largest here permit us to mention. in Palestine; it is thirty-three feet The writer has but few words in girth, and spreads its leafy cover- to add. In the limits of this brief ing over so large a space as ninety paper we have seen the same drama, feet. This is the venerable covering the same solemn solemnity gone beneath which Abraham pitched his through that humanity has been now tent--so says the story-teller ; but enacting for some thousands of the giant of trees tells no such tale years. Mighty men, strong places, himself; nor, on the face of it, is old and cherished ideas, not unthe fact at all likely. The tree has mixed with fanciful illusions-all the appearance of no very great rise up and disappear one by one ; antiquity. Further, Jerome speaks while, through all, the mysterious of the oak of Abraham having dis- purposes of Deity are being worked appeared about the time of Con- out" with unerring skill-purposes stantine.
unrevealed till that great day when We have touched but little on the every hidden thing shall be brought Scriptural references to Hebron : to light. Let us rest satisfied with these the reader may refer to in the thought that the God of Abraconnection with our short and im- ham, of Isaac, and of Jacob abideth perfect sketch. He will call to for ever; the Giver of all good mind the field with a cave, which things and the Taker-away; whose Abraham bought to bury his will be done, and to whom be all dead in; the further history of praise.
HYMN FOR THE NEW YEAR.
HARP, awake! tell out thy story
Of our love and joy and praise ;
Join, a thankful song to raise !
Lift the solemn voice again
Of our threescore years and ten !
In ourselves with sin defiled ;
In our Father reconciled!
Lord of sinless hosts above;
God of mercy, grace, and love!
Gracious Saviour, Thou hast lengthened
And hast blessed our mortal span,
What Thy grace alone began!
Be Thy warning whisper heard ;
By Thy Spirit and Thy word !
Crown the year we now begin ;
Grow in grace and vanquish sin !
Signs in heaven, and earth, and sea :
ON THE RELIGIOUS TRAINING OF CHILDREN.
NEGLECT of the religious education of children-so important and deeply interesting a department of the Church's heritage was long the reproach of Protestant Christendom, especially during the last century. Thank God, in our generation much of this sin cannot be laid to our charge, although a great deal yet remains to be accomplished. We can truly say that there is arising a more just appreciation of the importance of the subject, and that more earnest inquiries are made as to the duties of each class of persons, as well as of every individual.
With these few preliminary words we venture to place before our readers the following thoughts upon the matter.
It will be generally agreed that from the beginning God turned the hearts of parents to their offspring for religious instruction. Abel was taught of the promised Seed,” and how to bring an " acceptable sacrifice" to the Lord; and Noah how to please God and become an heir of the righteousness which is by faith. The piety of the patriarch Abraham was recognised in commanding his household to keep the way of the Lord; and this was “established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel;” and it was re-issued as
a statute when Christ came. Young Samuel, under the Old Testament dispensation, and young Timothy, under the New, were early taught to know the Holy Scriptures. In the first ages of the Christian Church classes of "catechumens” were formed for instruction in the Christian faith, composed largely of the young. Increased attention was paid to this duty after the Reformation. Schools, bearing some resemblance to modern Sunday-schools, are said to have existed in certain districts on the Conti. nent since the Reformation, and in Scotland in the last quarter of the last century.
Among all evangelical Christians it is matter of common consent that the conversion of the soul is a necessary condition of salvation. The declaration of our Lord to Nicodemus, that a man must be “born again” that he may see the kingdom of heaven, is received in its plain and obvious sense. Accordingly, the Christian parent prays devoutly and always that the Divine Spirit may accomplish His saving work upon the hearts of his offspring, and that they may be made early partakers of renewing grace. The Church, in her solemn ordinances, prays in behalf of each child brought to it in holy baptism,
that he may receive “that which by nature he cannot have ;” and the religious teacher of the young, whether his ministrations are public or private, labours to bring them to a serious conviction that they must be converted, in order to enjoy peace with God or to become entitled to everlasting life. But with this almost universal agreement upon these cardinal points, there have been the widest differences of opinion, and consequently of practical efforts, as to the practicability of the conversion of children and the methods to be adopted by which to secure that greatlyto-be-desired end.
About a century or so ago it was deemed sufficient by many Protestant teachers that, with the approach of old age, people should begin to think seriously of the interests of their souls, and addict themselves earnestly to religious duties. A later and more actively religious age insisted that with the assumption of the duties of mature life, and especially those of heads of families, should be associated an active devotion to personal religion. Our own times have seen the Church accepting the truth that youth, as well as approaching maturity, is eminently a fitting period to consecrate one's heart and life to Christ. Through all these times there have also been those who, either from their own experience or from cases that have come under their observation, have declared the fact that young children have been converted and lived in the enjoyment of religion. But such statements have usually been received by the Church with much doubtfulness, and generally they have been explained away as not sufficiently attested or as exceptional
More recently, and largely through the agency of Sunday-school instruction, large numbers of children have professed saving faith in Christ, and brought forth the fruits of good living that in adults would be accepted as undoubted evidence of genuine conversion. By these facts the Church is compelled, putting aside Scripture testimony, to accept the great truth that childhood, not less than more advanced life, may be, and therefore should be,
devoted to the service of God and the enjoyment of His grace. The most important problem now offered to evangelical Protestantism relates to the relation of young children to the Gospel, together with their capabilities to receive and retain saving grace, and the consequent duties of the Church and the family as to their religious nurture.
Suc a theme, so inviting by reason of its great promise of happy results, is not without its peculiar and formidable difficulties. It involves nearly every chief point in theology, and implies a practical determination of nearly every question that has been discussed in the past ages of the Church. Assuming, as may be done, the correctness of the orthodox faith respecting God and Christ, and the agency of the Holy Spirit, and of the fall of man and his need of redemption, there are yet other questions of scarcely less practical interest inseparably connected with the subject of the moral and religious relations of children. The federal relations of the child to Adam, and the nature and extent of the inherited curse, constitute a theme respecting which evangelical theologians are not all of one mind. The doctrine of special election and of irresistible grace comes in as a disturbing element among the practical agencies of Christian culture; while, on the other hand, the dogma of baptismal regeneration shuts up all the efforts of the pious within the often confined limits of ecclesiastical agencies. And beyond these arise the profound metaphysical problems of the nature of sin, the freedom of the will, and its apparent opposite, the law, of sin in man, and the nature of regeneration. These are questions that must arise wherever there is the mental acumen necessary for their appreciation; and, as a matter of fact, they produce no little embarrassment. Yet these questions must be met, and thought through by the aid of the word of God and the impulses of the Christian life. We must grapple with them and accomplish their solution ; for on them depend matters of momentous consequence.
Yet another difficulty arises from the fact that when a subject of this nature