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No doubt, the disciples of Christ baptized them. Did they immerse them? If they did, there must have been such a drawing of water from Jacob's well, as had not been known from the days in which Jacob drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle. In very many other places, the difficulty would have been far greater; and such indeed is the general scarcity of water in the Holy Land, as to render the practice of immersion, so often as Baptism would have required, in the days of Christ and his apostles, altogether incredible.
When I read the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, I receive no conviction that Peter sent away so much as one individual, drenched and dripping, to his own house. Some mocked, when they heard the disciples speaking with tongues, saying, these men are filled with new wine. What would they have said, had they beheld the scene closing with the immersion of three thousand people in water ? How laborious the operation in its performance! How terrible the discomfiture, which must have ensued, upon retiring, among the recent unprepared and agitated disciples ! Here, again, the scarcity of water makes the idea of immersion incredible. All the pools in Jerusalem united would have been quite inadequate. The pool of Bethesda is by some explained, “ the house of mercy," by others, “the house of effusion," that is, “ a place into which rain waters run together,” or rather “ the spring house,” (see editor of Calmet's edition of Well's Scripture Geography,) the house where the spring issued: which spring, in the
instance of the pool of Bethesda, might be intermitting and medicinal, though not without the blessing of God. This spring might furnish a bath for one at a time, and the first who could enter it, at the right season, obtained a divine cure. That Bethesda never was a large pool is probable, from the fact that it has long since been lost. There is a place shown, indeed, by the superstitious monks, and a large enough one, as the pool of Bethesda ; but no intelligent traveller
l believes it to be the right place. Maundrell evidently derides the idea of crediting their story. “We went,” he says, “ to take a view of that which they call the pool of Bethesda. It is one hundred and twenty paces long, and forty broad, and at least eight deep, but void of water. At its west end it discovers some old arches, now dammed up. These some will have to be the five porches in which sat that multitude of lame, halt, and blind, John v. But the mischief is, instead of five, there are but three of them.” The pool of Siloam is “ the lower pool,” where the water of “ the upper pool” is said to be distributed for public use. I dare say, it is a very convenient place for a person to wash his eyes at, John ix. 7. But for the immersion of multitudes these places are totally unfit. Most of the houses in Jerusalem, says D'Arvieux, “ are only one story raised above the ground floor. Their roofs are of stone, and are formed into terraces: they contain cisterns to preserve the rain water which is collected on the terraces; an attention absolutely necessary in this city, which includes neither wells, fountains, nor streams." This
is not owing to their being choked up, which might be a temporary cause, but to the climate, which is likely to have been always the same. An officer who accompanied Sir Sidney Smith during last war, says, “ At Jerusalem rain had not fallen during nine months: the absence of rain is supplied by a very considerable fall of dew early in the morning.” With regard to the brook Kidron, it is a brook only in the winter season, or after great rains, being at other times without a drop of water in it, as it was all the time Mr Maundrell staid at Jerusalem. Besides, like all other brooks in cities, it is contaminated with the filth, of which it is the receptacle and the common
“ This brook” (says the editor of Well’s Geography,) “ answered the purpose of a drain to the lands around the city of Jerusalem after rains; and possibly might answer the same purpose to some of the suburbs of the city, and receive their underground discharges. Hence, perhaps, its name, black. So a poet of our own characterizes the river Fleet in London, which not unaptly answers to the brook Kidron at Jerusalem :
Where black Fleet ditch, with disemboguing streams,
As there were hewers of wood, so there were drawers of water, for the service of the temple. There was a large body of people devoted to these laborious occupations, called Nethinims, Josh. ix. 23, 27. Neh. iii. 26. Who drew the water for the immersion of the converts on the day of Pentecost ? And whence
could they have drawn it? To have gone to Kidron, had it been ever so full, would have been procuring any thing rather than
pure water.” And to have emptied the cisterns on the tops of the houses, would have made an insurrection of the whole city. The destruction of as many magazines of corn would probably have been a smaller calamity. We have no occasion to rest the evidence of these remarks on the testimony of travellers. Every attentive reader of scripture must know enough of the geography of the Holy Land to perceive that our argument is undeniable. Let him recollect the importance given to the digging of wells; the stopping up of wells; the property of wells ; the watering of camels, and of flocks of sheep; nay, the gift of a cup of cold water; the comparison of ardent desire to thirst in a dry and thirsty land where no water is; and the promises of the early and the latter rain, of pouring water on the thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; and he will cease to dream of the immersion of thousands in a day, in the city of Jerusalem, or in most places of the Holy Land.
After reading the five preceding pages in my first Edition, a Gentleman, whose honour, judgment, and impartiality, are beyond all question, and who visited Jerusalem within the last ten years, has favoured me with the following corroborative testimony.
“ I cannot recollect to have seen any stream or pool near Jerusalem, sufficiently deep to allow the immersion of an adult person.
The brook Kidron was so nearly dried up, that I do not believe a boy or girl
could in any part of its channel, near Jerusalem, have found depth enough for immersion. I believe I saw no water between Jaffa and Jerusalem, * in which a man or woman could have been immersed so that Immersion could scarcely have been generally required as a form of religion.”
Because the pool of Bethesda has disappeared, some are disposed to consider the waters of Jerusalem as having generally failed, and allege, that we cannot infer from its present situation, that there was a scanty supply of water in earlier times. But the supply of water in that city appears to be very nearly the same at present that ever it was.
The only considerable spring, which it ever possessed, originally rose at Gihon, a place on the west side of Jerusalem, opposite to the highest summit of mount Zion, which lay towards the south, and probably flowed from the roots of that mount.t It is known in scripture by two names of nearly the same import. The one name is Gihon (jonu from nia, to break, burst, or thrust forth) and signifies, that which is THRUST FORTH. The other name is Siloam (perhaps the same as ribun, Isa. viii. 6. from Abw, to send, or send forth) and signifies, that which is sent or SENT FORTH. Its signification is given in John ix. 7. “Go wash in the pool of Siloam, which is, by interpretation, sent." From this fountain, near its source, water was, at one period, taken for the use of the ful
• A distance of 38 miles.
+ See Vitringa on Isaiah vii. 3.