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a spirit of impartiality which extends even to the history of St. George and other legends having no better foundation in ecclesiastical history.
Next to the New Testament they place the Constitutions of the Apostles, which, as far as a certain class of questions is considered, may be called the written law of the country. They have also a general Liturgy, or Book of Common Prayer, besides a variety of manuals appropriated to particular festivals. Selections from the volumes of the Greek Fathers occasionally occur, as also versions of the more practical and devotional tracts of Athanasius, Basil, Chrysostom, and Cyril. But the most popular work is the Flower of the Saints, in which are recorded the lives and miracles of their holy men, mixed with fables of the most incredible and even ridiculous nature. The book of Enoch, which, though quoted by St. Jude, has been universally held as apocryphal, likewise finds a place in their sacred library. It deserves the same reception as has been bestowed on the Organon Denghel or Musical Instrument of the Virgin Mary; a treatise which is said to compensate by the beauty of its style for the manifold absurdities it everywhere contains.
Among the works mentioned by Ludolf, there is one entitled the Book of Philosophy, which he acknowledges it was not his good fortune to see. The notions on general physics entertained by the Abyssinians are extremely limited, and carry us back to the first efforts made by the human mind to connect effects with causes. They maintain that man was formed out of the four elements, the moist, the dry, the cold, and the warm; that the soul proceeds from the inspiration of the Almighty and never dies; but that the spirit of life, which consists in the blood, is mortal and perishes with the body. They hold that the corpse of a Christian is not unclean; because, though it has ceased to retain either the intellectual or the sensitive soul, it has not been deprived of the grace conferred on it by baptism. In regard to the system
of the world and the structure of our globe, they hold that the latter is a plain, and that the sun and stars find their way, from the west where they set to the east where they rise, by a secret path under the earth.
Among such a people we must not expect that law should be found elevated to the rank of a science. Custom and a
certain analogy grafted upon it constitute the only guide to the magistrate and judge, who decide most cases on a general principle of equity applied according to circumstances.
The art of healing is likewise in a very low state ; for the use of the burning iron continues to supersede all other surgical instruments. A few herbs, recommended by experience, are found beneficial in attacks of the viscera. The tertian fever is cured by means of the torpedo or electrical eel, which is said to cause indescribable torture. When the plague or any contagious epidemic appears, the people flee from their villages with their cattle and goods, seeking in the mountains an escape from so formidable an evil.
The attempts which have been lately made by the Protestant societies in this country will, it is hoped, soon render the literature of Abyssinia more familiar to the European, scholar. The Scriptures, or at least a portion of them, have been translated into the principal dialects of the Ethiopic tongue, especially those of Amhara and Tigré. The Jesuits in former days distinguished themselves by their zealous application to the study of the native languages, and even brought home some trophies of their success in conquering difficulties, though placed in circumstances so unfavourable to literary pursuits. To them we are indebted for the New Testament in the Ethiopic, which is inserted in Walton's Polyglott. In the Christian Researches of Mr. Jowett will be found an account of certain efforts, made by him during his residence in the East, to procure for the Bible Society versions of the Sacred Writings in the forms of speech most commonly used in the several provinces of Abyssinia. His labours, though not altogether fruitless, were not attended with such results as might inspire universal confidence; but the acquisitions already attained will assist materially in facilitating the progress of more accomplished workmen than he had it in his power to employ.*
It cannot be denied that the condition of Abyssinia at the present moment presents strong claims to the aid and sympathy of the Christian world. Nearly thirty years ago, Lord Valentia pointed out the importance of opening a direct communication between that country and Britain; stating
* Page 196, &c.
his conviction that our holy religion in its better forms, if offered to their acceptance with caution and moderation, would meet with a favourable reception. At any rate, the improvements in art and science, which always follow commerce, would meliorate the national character, and assist in bringing back their belief and worship to a purity which they have long lost. The restoration of tranquillity to the provinces, and a legal trade to the empire, would also have the very important effect of putting an end to the exportation of slaves ; which here is not only liable to the same objections as on the western coast of Africa, but to the still greater one that the individuals thus sold and expatriated are Christians, and are moreover carried into Arabia, where they inevitably lose at once their liberty and their religion.
Mr. Salt announced that the nation with its religion was fast verging to ruin. The Galla and Mussulman tribes around are daily becoming more powerful ; and “there is reason to fear that the very name of Christ may be lost
Lord Valentia's Travels, vol. iii. pp. 247, 256.
Manners and Customs of Ethiopia.
Present state of Abyssinia-Weakness of the Monarch-Nature of Succession-Court of Justice-Modes of Punishment-Similarity to the Persians-Humane Maxims-Aversion to eat with Strangers-Complexion and Features-Marriage Ceremonies-Manner of Christening -Whimsical Practice to preserve the Life of Children-SuperstitionsBuda-Singular Anecdotes—The Zackary-Strange Delusion of Tigreter-Mode of Cure-Example witnessed by Mr. Pearce-Case of his own Wife-Trembling Picture-The Crying Cross-Delusion by a Dofter-Opinion of Welled Salassé-Chastisement of the DofterAstonishing Mimic-Diseases and Death ascribed to Demons-Fevers -Small-pox-Inoculation-Practice of Galla-Scrofula— TapewormCustoms at Funerals-Criers-Lawyers-Practice in regard to Punishment of Murderers-Agriculture-Cookery-Usages at the TableCutting of the Shulada-Narrative of Bruce-Disbelieved in Europe Questioned by Mr. Salt--Description of a Feast-Mode of Feeding at Table-Attempt to reconcile Bruce and Salt-Change of Manners in the Interval-Character of the Nobility and Higher Classes-Rigid Feasts-Disorderly Conduct of the Clergy-Extract from Purchas's Pilgrims-Conclusion.
Abyssinia in our days presents the singular spectacle of an absolute monarchy divested of all regal power, and stripped of the advantages which arise from hereditary succession. By the principles of the ancient constitution, the sovereign was clothed with a degree of authority and an extent of prerogative, which if exercised, must have soon proved incompatible with all personal rights and individual property. Not only was the whole land in the empire held as fiefs from the crown revocable at pleasure, but the life and liberty of every subject could be taken away at the will of the prince without remonstrance or appeal.
To guard against these manifest evils, the nobility, and more especially the governors of provinces, have contrived to disarm the prerogative by retaining in their hands the power of the sword. The Ras appointed to each large section of the kingdom became in fact the ruler of it ; limiting his obedience according to circumstances, and marching his
troops against his master more frequently than against the public enemy. Hence the emperor of Abyssinia during the last hundred years has possessed nothing of sovereignty but the name; and as the succession to the throne is not determined by fixed laws, it is usually filled by the most active partisan or the most daring rebel. In short, as the crown is hereditary in one family but elective in the person, the presumptive heirs, under a system of polygamy, must have multiplied so much as to create constant disputes ; so that it was found necessary to provide a remedy for the anarchy as well as the effusion of royal blood which was likely to follow, by confining the junior members of the king's house to a high mountain, where they were maintained with at least some regard to their rank and prospects.*
When Bruce was in Abyssinia, it was perfectly understood that the choice of a sovereign rested with the principal officers in the army and the strongest party at court. There was no preference given to birthright or legitimacy. It was only necessary that the candidate should have
from royal lineage and be unmutilated in his person. When a king dies and the succession is not disputed, he is usually put into his coffin before the proclamation of the next. The body is then brought into a large hall of the palace ; the queen and royal family, with the chief courtiers, make the most frantic exclamations and show of grief; the whole city is in mourning; the people cut their hair and cover themselves with mean apparel. The young king is then brought into the banqueting room ; the priests, judges, and nobles who happen to be near the capital, attend; they spread carpets on the floor and place him on the throne; the Kees Hatze, or royal almoner, who represents the priest
*A similar custom appears to have prevailed among the ancient Hebrews, for in the threatening denounced by God against Jeroboam and Ahab, namely, the extinction of their male progeny, it is said, “I will cut off him that is shut up and left in Israel." In Palestine as well as in Abyssini i the practice seems to have undergone a change, for we are told that the seventy sons of Ahab, who were in Samaria, lived with the great men of the city who brought then up. This is now the usage in the latter country also; the establishment at Wechné having been discontinued, and the inmates intrusted to the charge of the nobility throughout the empire.--Commentators neglecting the habits of oriental nations, have not been successful in explaining the portions of Scripture now alluded to; 1 Kings xiv. 10, xxi. 21.