E-24 I read a story sometime ago. I think it was a fiction story. And most all ministers, I guess, have read Dr. Ingraham's book of–of "The Prince of the House of David." It's a great book. It's–I think it's absolutely out of print. I'd like to have it in print, so I could put it among the people.
Believest Thou This? was delivered on Saturday, 2nd April 1960 at the Municipal Auditorium in Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S.A.
Letters from Adina.
Letter nº 1.
My Dear Father:
My first duty, as it is my highest pleasure, is to comply with your command to write you as soon as I should arrive at Jerusalem; and this letter, while it conveys to you intelligence of my arrival, will confirm to you my filial obedience. I will not fail to write by every caravan that leaves here monthly for Cairo; and if there are more frequent opportunities, my love, dear father, and sympathy for you in you separation from me, will prompt me to avail myself of them. My journey hither occupied many days, Rabbi Ben Israel says seventeen, but although I kept the number up to ten. I soon became too weary to keep the account. When we traveled in sight of the sea, which we did for three days, I enjoyed the majesty of the prospect; it seemed so like the sky stretched out upon the earth. I also had the good fortune to see several ships, which the Rabbi, who was always ready to gratify my thirst for information, informed me were Roman galleys, bound some to Sidon and others into the Nile; and after one of these latter, as it was going to you, I sent a prayer and a wish. Just as we were leaving the sea-shore to turn off into the sea-shore, I saw a wrecked vessel. It looked so helpless and bulky, with its huge black body all out of the water, that it seemed to me like a great sea-monster, stranded and dying; and I felt like pitying it. The Rabbi gave me to understand that it had come from Alexandria, laden with wheat, bound for Italia, and been cast ashore in a storm. How terrible a tempest must be upon the sea! I was in hopes to have seen a Leviathan, but was not gratified in the wish. The good Rabbi, who seemed to know all about these things, told me that they seldom appear now in the Middle Sea. But are seen beyond the pillar of Hercules at the world’s end. At Gaza we stopped two days. We entered the gateway of which Samson carried away the gates, and I was shown the traditional hill two miles to the south-east where he left them. Many other places of interest were shown me, especially the field, which our path led across, where he put to flight the Philistine hosts with much slaughter. A lion’s cave was also pointed out to me, out of which came the lion which Samson slew, and upon which he made his famous riddles. A dry well into which the ten Patriarchs lowered the Prince Joseph, their brother, was also shown me by our Arab guide, and also the rock on which the Ishmaelites told down the pieces of silver. But Rabbi Ben Israel says the true pit of Joseph is north of Jerusalem near the mountains of Gilboa at Dothan. The traditions of the Arabs are often thus at fault. I fancied the old Arab related the occurrence with more elation than was needful, as if he took pride in perpetuating the fact that our noble ancestor had once been the purchased slave of theirs. I noticed, several times during the journey, that the Ishmaelites of Edom in our caravan took every occasion to elevate their own race to the disparagement of the sons of Israel; indeed, Aben Hussuff, our white-bearded chief of the caravan, in a wordy discussion with Rabbi Ben Israel, at Isaac’s well where we encamped, would have it that Isaac was the son of the bond woman, and Ishmael the true heir, but disinherited and cast out through the wiles of the bond woman, who would have her own son the inheritor. But of course I was too well instructed in the history of my fathers to give heed to such a fable; though the Arabs took part with their chief, and contended for the truth of what he asserted as warmly and zealously as the learned Rabbi did for the truth of his own side.The morning of the last day of our journey but one, having lost our way and wandered many hours east-wardly, we caught sight of the Sea of Sodom and Gomorrah, at a great distance to the east. How my pulse quickened at beholding that fearful spot so marked by the wrath of Jehovah! I seemed to see in imagination the heavens on fire above it, and the flames and smoke ascending as from a great furnace, as on that fearful day when they were destroyed, with all that beautiful surrounding plain, which we are told was one vast garden of beauty. How calm and still lay now that sluggish sea beneath a cloudless sky! We held it in sight many hours, and once caught a glimpse of the Jordan north of it, looking like a silver thread; yet near as it appeared to be, I was told it was a good day’s journey for a came to reach its shores. After losing sight of this melancholy lake, the glassy sepulchre of cities and their countless dwellers, our way lay along a narrow valley for some time, and the next day, on reaching an eminence, Jerusalem appeared, like a city risen out of the earth, it stood before us so unexpectedly; for we were still, as it were, in the desert; yet so near on the side of our approach does the desert advance to its walls, that it was not two miles off when we beheld it. I cannot, my dear father, describe to you my emotions on beholding the Holy City! They have been experienced by millions of our people–they were similar to your own as you related them to me. All the past, with its mighty men who walked with Jehovah, came up to my mind, overpowering me with the amazing weight. The whole history of the sacred place rushed to my memory, and compelled me to bow my head, and worship and adore at the sight of the Temple, where God once (alas, why does He no longer visit earth and His Holy House?) dwelt in the flaming Shechinah, and made known the oracles of His will. I could see the smoke of the evening sacrifice ascending to the skies, and I inwardly prayed Jehovah to accept it for thee and me. As we approach the city several interesting spot were pointed out to me, and I was bewildered with the familiar and sacred localities which I had known hitherto only by reverential reading of the Prophets. It seemed to me that I was living in the days of Isaiah and Jeremiah, as places associated with their names were shown me, rather than in the generation to which I properly belong. Indeed, I have lived only in the past the three days I have been in Jerusalem, constantly consulting the sacred historians to compare places and scenes with their accounts, and so verify each with a holy awe and inward delight that must be felt to be understood; but, dear father, you have yourself experienced all this, and therefore can understand my emotions. We entered the city just before the sixth hour of the evening, and were soon at the house of our relative, Amos, the Levite. I was received as if I had a daughter’s claim to their embraces; and with the luxuries with which they surrounded me in my gorgeously furnished apartments, I am sure my kinsfolk here mean to tempt me to forget the joys of the dear home I have left. The Rabbi Amos and his family all desire to be commended to you. As it is his course to serve in the Temple, I do not see much of him, but he seems to be a man of piety and benevolence, and greatly loves his children. I have been once to the Temple. Its outer court seemed like a vast caravanserai or market-place, being thronged with the men who sell animals for sacrifice, which crowded all parts. Thousands of doves in large cages were sold on one side, and on another were stalls for lambs, sheep, calves, and oxen, the noise and bleating of which, with the confusion of tongues, made the place appear like any thing else than the Temple of Jehovah. It appears like desecration to use the Temple thus, dear father, and seems to show a want of that holy awe of God’s house that once characterized our ancestors. I was glad to get safely through the Bazaar, which on the plea of selling to sacrificers victims for the altar, allows, under color thereof, every other sort of traffic. On reaching the women’s court I was sensible of being in the Temple, by the magnificence which surrounded me. With what awe I bowed my head in the direction of the Holy of Holies! I never felt before so near to God! Clouds of incense floated above the heads of the multitude, and rivers of blood flowed down the marble steps of the altar of burnt offering. Alas! how many innocent victims bleed every morning and evening for the sins of Israel! What a sea of blood has been poured out in ages that have passed! What a strange, fearful mystery, that the blood of an innocent lamb should atone for sins I have done! There must be some deeper meaning in these sacrifices, dear father, yet unrevealed to us. As I was returning from the Temple I met many persons walking and riding, who seemed to be crowding out of the gate on some unusual errand. I have since learned that there is a very extraordinary man–a true prophet of God, it is believed by many, who dwells in the wilderness eastward near Jordan, and who preaches with power unknown in the land since the days of Elijah and Elisha. It is to see and listen to this prophet that so many persons are daily going out from Jerusalem. He lives in a cave, feeds on plants or wild honey, and drinks only water, while his clothing is the skin of a lion; at least such is the report. I hope he is a true prophet of Heaven, and that God is once more about to remember Israel ; but the days of the Prophets have long passed away, and I fear this man is only an enthusiast, like the impostor Theudas, or that Galilean Judas, who deceived our people and perished so miserably ; but this man’s influence over all who listen to him is so remarkable, that it would seem, and one has almost the courage to believe, that he is really endowed with the Spirit of the Prophets. Farewell, dear father, and let us ever pray for the glory of Israel.
Obs. Until the next time.