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94

THE BUILDERS OF THE TEMPLE.

on pleasantly or leap in foaming cascades over precipice and mountain height,-still the same firmament, stars, and moon, are suspended like a splendid canopy of brilliants. But the intense silence that reigned here aforetime in the night season has been banished for awhile ; from the mountains resound the harsh voice of the axe and the groaning crash of heavy falling trees,—the loud cry of labourers inciting each other to labour,—the low moaning of heavily-burthened oxen,—the sound of timber being hewn and shaped, or the track of heavier beams upon the pathways of Lebanon; all these proclaim that the thousands of workmen sent by Solomon have set their shoulders to the wheel, and the work of the mighty temple is progressing rapidly.

Night and day, day and night, busy gangs are scattered over every accessible part of Lebanon; the beauty and the pride of centuries are levelled with the earth, and the cedars of ancient growth are hewn down and borne away to Jerusalem. Then the night watch of overseers and head clerks sat often as we now sit, urging the men to labour, else praising to one another the clear unclouded moonlight which helped to further the progress of the work.

Silence once again reigns upon the Lebanon; the noisy bustling crew have lived to see their labour accomplished; the temple has risen in glory and fame, and been swept away again by the ruthless hand of time; the sun of Israel has set, and the morning

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star of Christianity risen over the summits of the snow-capped mountains.

Strange men, who were travellers and pilgrims amongst those hills, came, and told the natives stranger tales of what things had been said and done at Jerusalem;

how the wise men had come out of the far east, led by a brilliant star, to the lowly manger;—how Herod had persecuted and slain the innocents;-how ignorant men were suddenly endowed with the gifts of eloquence and language;—how the Jews, in angry multitudes, had risen up and oppressed and beaten dauntless men, whose faith endowed them with more courage than the lion ;-how they had smitten some, imprisoned some, and banished others, yet still how perseveringly the same men came back again, and preached the same doctrine; and how marvellously men born blind had been made to see, the maimed and the cripple made whole, the children of corruption brought forth from the recesses of the grave with life and health; how, finally, the governors and high priests had leagued together and crucified that man, whose only deeds were mercy; and how the face of all nature, revolting at their base ingratitude, turned mysteriously dark for the space of several hours, whilst —

Mountains labour'd and groan'd with pain,
And the veil of the temple was rent in twain.

These, and many other marvellous truths, did the pilgrim and stranger pour into the listening ears of the

96

RUTHLESS INVADERS.

people that then dwelt on Lebanon; and some believed, and some mocked at them as idle tales, whilst time steadily turned the globe, and generation was numbered after generation.

Rank weeds sprang up and stifled what good seeds these early pilgrims had scattered, and the gilded head of idolatry was reared above the mountain-tops. Still the moon, like a careful mother, watched over the slumberers on Lebanon,—still the dew copiously refreshed the earth, and the canopy of heaven was still the same resplendent firmament of stars.

Ages rolled by ; the shadow from that cross where the good Man had been crucified fell, like a refulgent stream of light, over the waters of the Mediterranean, and far into the lands of the west; yet still where the cross itself was planted ignorance and superstition prevailed-impenetrable darkness clothed the earth.

Suddenly the quiet and repose of the villages in Lebanon was broken in upon by frightened fugitives, who, flying from the plains below, sought shelter in the inaccessible heights.

These people brought up with them terrible tales of murder and cruelty and bloodshed; telling how wild men, swarming like locusts upon the earth, had risen suddenly, like a cloud not bigger than a hand, in the distant east, and nearing the confines of Palestine, had burst, like a terrible hurricane, over the land.

Every city, and town, and village, had been ravished by these ruthless invaders, their sabres sharp and

THE DISCIPLES OF MAHOMET.

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besmeared with innocent gore; their creed destruction and extermination to all that professed not a like faith with themselves.

The disciples of Mahomet had overcome the land, the cross was trampled down,—the Koran and the crescent preached to all tribes,—and the same moon looking down with placid beam beheld, reflected in her rays, a gaudy mockery of her younger self.

Banners with crescent moons, and lofty minarets topped with gilded emblems of the same, reared themselves in plains and upon mountains, and overtopped the stateliest trees.

Then the descendants of the Hivites, who had been permitted to dwell with the Jews on Lebanon, whose faith had wavered between idolatry and the law of Moses-between the law and the Gospels now wavered again between the faith of a Christian and the new-fangled creed of Mahomet.

No man could read the secrets of their hearts, but in outer forms they bowed and conceded to such as might chance to be the lords of the land. Great was the fame of the caliphs and descendants of Mahomet; the Moslem's prayer echoed musically, but profanely, from mountain to mountain in the Lebanon, but her children heeded not the music, nor cared for the echo. Wrapped in superstitious idolatry, and worshipping in secret caverns and in solitude a being created primate of their faith by the legends and tales of their ancestors, out of the many faiths that had been preached

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upon those mountains, they had gleaned together fragments and odds and ends. Adding to these their own original legends and superstitions, they constituted a creed entirely their own, from which source, most probably, the present race of Druses derive all their notions or knowledge of religion.

Again the cycles of time revolve: sturdy warriors, clad in armour, the sons of Western Europe, scramble up the mountain heights, and mingling, fraternise with the children of Lebanon. Their crosses and their rosaries proclaim them crusaders,—heroes of valiant heart, and stout in faith, who, charmed by the phrenzied eloquence of men like Peter the Hermit, have left wealth, and home, and affection, and comfort, behind them, to combat with the usurper who has trampled upon the cross, and to drive them from the land they polluted.

But the fulness of time for so great a victory had not then arrived; reverses and misfortunes, death, by slaughter and by pestilence, fearfully thinned their ranks, till the only home left them in the land of their pilgrimage, was here, amongst the sons of the Lebanon. That same moon and stars at which we now lie gazing, shone mildly over the graves of three hundred thousand chivalrous men, the flower of all Europe's armies.

The bubble of fanaticism had burst and collapsed in the west, and the victims of the fanatic Peter had bitten the dust in Palestine; those few that sur

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