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divinity confessed thereby that his allegiance was pledged, and his services bound to the land in which he presented his offering.
We have elsewhere mentioned the alarm which was excited among the Hebrew tribes, who under the command of Joshua had settled on the western side of the Jordan, when it was reported to them that their brethren of Gad and Reuben had erected an altar on the opposite bank in the pastoral district of Gilead. This act was considered as equivalent to a political schism, or a permanent separation of interests. And when they heard of it, “the whole children of Israel gathered themselves together at Shiloh, to go up to war against them.” An appeal to arms was prevented, by an assurance on the part of the suspected herdsmen, that they had no intention to offer sacrifices, but were ready to repair for all religious usages to the place where the ark of the covenant should be deposited.
In surveying the wonders which crowd the banks of the Nile from Meroë to Memphis, we are struck with the reflection that the wealth, power, and genius, whence they derived their origin, have entirely passed away. In some portions of that extensive tract a race little superior to save ages pass a rude and precarious life, ignorant of the arts, and insensible equally to the beauty and the magnificence of the ruins which they tread under foot. They have ceased even to claim connexion with the people who raised the splendid monuments of Ehsamboul, Karnac, and Dendera ; and, accordingly, they ascribe the anxiety which our coun. trymen display, in regard to those remains of antiquity, to the desire of visiting the tombs of a European nation, who are supposed by them to have built the temples and sculptured the obelisks.
The Nubians, especially, have relapsed into that low condition where even curiosity has become dormant, and in which the eye can be every day fixed on the noblest works of human ingenuity without suggesting any speculation as to their authors, their epoch, or their design. Throughout the whole world, in short, there is no greater contrast to be witnessed than between what now is, and what must once have been, in Ethiopia and Egypt. There is even great difficulty in passing, by an effort of thought, from the one condition to the other, through the various scenes of conquest and desolation which seem necessary to have produced the effects we contemplate. We might question history, but we should receive no answer, as to events and characters which the lapse of three thousand years has thrown into an impenetrable obscurity. Surrounded with darkness we grope our way amid superb structures, dedicated to gods and heroes whose names make but a faint impression on our ears; and we satisfy ourselves with the conclusion, that a great people had existed there before the era of recorded time, whose literature and phi. losophy have been outlived by their architectural monuments.
Religion and Literature of Ethiopia.
Abyssinia received Christianity at an early Period-Influence of Re
ligion on its Political State and Civil History-Story of Frumentius Jewish Ceremonies mixed with the Gospel - Arian Heresy--Constantius-Invasion of Arabia--Heresy of Eutyches-Conversion of Nubians-Justinian and Theodore-Zara Jacob--His Letter to the Monks of Jerusalem-Council of Florence-Pagans of Samon-Arrival of Paez-Dispute with Clergy-The King Za Denghel becomes Roman Catholic-His Letter to the Pope--Accession of Susneus-His Adherence to the Roman Forin-Rebellion-Forrnal Declaration in favour of Popery-Death of Paez-Arrival of Mendez--His Proceedings as Patriarch-Encroachments and Tyranny-The King alarmed insists on Moderation-Rebellion-Basilides, or Facilidas, the Prince-Hopes of the People-- Letter from the Pope-Additional Concessions— Popery abolishrd-Jesuits banished — Capuchins - Franciscan Friars - Attempt by Louis XIV.--Poncet and Brevedent-Massacre of_Catholic Priests--Arrival of Abuna---His Proceedings--The Psalter--Doctrines of Abyssinians--Zaga Zaba, Ludolf, and Lobo--Mode of Worship Form of Churches--Circumcision, Baptism, and Communion--Prayers for the Dead--Fixedness of Manners and Habits--Sabbath--Chronology--Last Attempt of Catholics--Literature--Resemblance to Jews -Books-Philosophy-Law-Medicine--Modern Translation.
We have alluded to the singular fact, that Abyssinia, which received the Christian faith at an early period, has retained it, amid a great variety of fortune, down to the present day. The arms and the policy of the Moslem, which prevailed in Egypt, Asia Minor, the northern shores
of Africa, and even over a large portion of Greece, could not make any permanent impression among the Ethiopians. A furious war, it is true, raged between the Mohammedan chief, who took possession of the country near Adel, and the king of the Axumites; but it does not appear that, either by conquest or negotiation, the tenets of the Koran were ever admitted into any of the Abyssinian provinces.
This distinction will be found the more remarkable, when we consider the imperfect means which were used for establishing the gospel in that remote kingdom, and we may add, the rather defective form in which it was received by the new converts. The principles of Christianity were not expounded there by the apostles nor hy their personal missionaries, as at Corinth, Ephesus, Galatia, and Thessa. lonica ; and yet, while the seven churches of Asia have left nothing but a name in the page of ecclesiastical history, the believers in Ethiopia, who fifteen hundred years ago “stretched out their hands unto God,” still glory in their ancient creed.
There is another peculiarity in regard to this people, so far at least as their connexion with this part of the world is considered, which is, that it is chiefly through the medium of their religious attachments their civil affairs have been made known among European nations. So soon as it was rumoured that a Christian state existed on the eastern coast of Africa, surrounded by bigoted Mussulmans and infidel pagans, a deep interest was excited among all classes of men. Kings, warriors, merchants, and navigators, were seized with a pious curiosity to know the actual condition of a people whose history, they concluded, must be strange, and who, if they should require it, were entitled as brethren in the faith to their aid and protection. The legend, too, respecting Prester John, had its full influence in animating their zeal in the search of a monarch whose name was associated in their minds with every sentiment of veneration and wonder.
We have already had more than one occasion to allude to the story of Frumentius, who is usually supposed to have conveyed to Abyssinia the knowledge of the Christian faith. In company with a fellow-student he was under the care of Meropius, a philosopher, when the ship in which they sailed happened to be wrecked on the Ethiopian coast. The pres ceptor was murdered by the barbarians, but the lives of the two pupils were spared ; after which occurrence the young men were conducted to Axum, where their accomplishments soon procured for them an honourable employment at court. It is even said that, through the influence of the queen, Frumentius was appointed tutor to the prince her son, during whose minority the seeds of the gospel were sown by the zealous stranger.
On his return to Egypt he communicated to Athanasius, who at that time filled the patriarch's chair, the success which had attended his first endeavours to disseminate the principles of the true religion. To enable him to complete the good work which he had so auspiciously begun, he was forth with clothed with the episcopal character, and sent back as Bishop of Axum. But his progress was soon afterward interrupted by the prevalence of the Arian heresy, which, being patronised by Constantius, was so extensively propagated throughout the empire, that at length it signalized its triumph by the degradation of the distinguished divine, who, as we have just noticed, occupied the patriarchal throne of Alexandria. We have repeatedly mentioned the letter which the emperor wrote to the brothers Aizana and Saizana, who exercised a joint power at Axum, denouncing their bishop, and requesting that he might be sent to the Egyptian capital, where, " by conversing familiarly with Venerable George and other learned men, he would reap great benefits, and return to his see well instructed in all ecclesiastical discipline.” This invitation or command received no attention either from the prelate or his sovereigns; and hence the church of Ethiopia continued orthodox, while the majority of the oriental Christians were beguiled into error by the reasoning of Arius, or by the authority of the father of Constantine.*
It cannot be concealed, that with the doctrines of Christianity they either incorporated many ceremonies which they had borrowed from the Jews, or, it may be, they received the gospel mixed with many of their rites, which had not, in the early period of the Egyptian church, been entirely sepa. rated from it. It is equally certain, however, that the faith which they adopted with enthusiasm they maintained with great firmness ; for they not only withstood the importunity employed by the imperial envoys to draw them aside from the truth, but even employed their arms to defend the believers in Arabia against the enemies of the cross. So highly esteemed, indeed, were their zeal and influence, that the head of the Roman empire did not regard it as unsuitable to his dignity to solicit their co-operation in opposing the Persians, aided by the infidel Hebrews, who threatened the eastern shore of the Red Sea.
* Ludolf Hist. Ethiop. lib. iii. c. 2. The names of the royal brothera in the language of the country were Abraha and Atzbeha.
The interval between the reign of Constantius and the government of Justinian presents to the historian little more than an absolute blank. We read, it is true, that from time to time many holy men went from Egypt, who were inva. riably received with reverence by the inhabitants; particu. larly nine of great sanctity, about the year 480, whose mem. ory is still respected in the province of Tigre, where a cor. responding number of churches were built and called after their names.*
But at length the disputes which tore asunder the great body of the Greek church reached the remote provinces of Abyssinia. The theological error, which is associated with the name of Eutyches, respecting the nature of Christ, found a favourable reception in Egypt, and was communicated by the patriarch to the subordinate prelate of Axum. The opinion that the Redeemer consisted of only one na. ture, as the Divine Word, and parlook not in any degree of the qualities of flesh and blood, is known among ecclesiastical writers as the monophysite heresy; and which, though it was variously modified by subsequent authors, at no time ceased to respect the essential point of faith now described. As it seems to be characteristic of the Abyssinians never to relinquish what they have once been taught on sufficient au thority, they resisted every attempt made by the orthodox party to induce them to an abjuration of their heretical notions.
Nubia, more recently converted to our holy religion, was infected with the same errors and subjected to the same con. troversies. It unfortunately happened that Justinian and
* Geddes's Church History of Ethiopia, p. 14.; Ludolphi Hist. Ethiop lib. i. c. 3