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THE PURIFICATION. IN N the center of a broad desert of sand flows
a the Jordan, all concealed as yet from view. We walk upon a level floor of sand, the saline crust at every step crunching like snow beneath our feet. Up the western gorges morning billows of mist are rolling, while the plain between forms a gigantic stairway of shelves or terraces of sand.
But where, then, is the Jordan, and its busy hum of men, its noise of many waters, with ever and anon the bark of the jackal, the far roar of the lion, or cry of other wild beast coming up from the swelling of the tide ? No moving thing appears, unless far away a solitary Arab be espied scouring across the horizon. Only in the center of the desert we observe a belt of green, and approaching, as we descend the abrupt slope of the last sandy platform across which we have been passing, we translated suddenly within the loveliest of Oriental vales, umbrageous, cool, delicious-seemingly the production of some enchanter's wand. Far in the center rushes still concealed the
swollen Jordan, swift as arrowy Rhone, fringed with thirsty plants, which, bodily breasting the risen waves, trail all their pliant tresses in the stream.
A carpet of velvet green, embossed with va. rious flowers, extends to the watery marge. Groves of sycamores, acacias, and tall and plumy shrubs, Persian poplars, with their polished stems, willows of every species, and lofty osiers, mix their soft and delicate foliage, pierced here and there to an enormous height by the feathery palm, rejoicing as lord paramount of the scene, while about their trunks convolvuli are twisting and twining impenetrable bowers.
Through these pleasant vistas the scattered multitudes are spreading, young and old, male and female, rich and poor, a whole population seems sojourning there. Horses, mules, and camels browse in the luxuriant thickets, while among them, under their very feet, as it were, children sport in noisy glee.
Single or in companies, the elder people move sedate, conversing on the stirring omens of the times, and anticipating doubtfully the approaching end of the world.
Here we see a score of faces, where, on pages of Epicurean voluptuousness, skepticism and irony write the Sadducee. These we hear de
riding the notion of a resurrection as connected with Messiah's coming.
Anon, with stately mien and slow, behold a solemn company, whose long blue fringes, and ascetic visages, and broad phylactéries proclaim the PHARISEE. These uphold the expected resurrection as the hope of the promise of God made unto the fathers. How else, say they, shall Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob inherit the land wherein they were strangers ? Hence, while they defend the correctness of the herald's message herein, they are offended by the humiliating preparation he imposes. Pompous, proud, and scrupulous, they regard themselves as holy. The people so revere them. Must they confess in Jordan ?
“Behold,” exclaims a youthful Roman, leaning on his spear, and with a purple cloak lightly thrown around his burnished armor, “yonder tall figure, seemingly bereft of feet, how still he skims along the ground! Inform me, friend," he cries, addressing a citizen of Jerusalem, “what strange fantasy bewilders his brain. I am but a stranger in these parts, and lately come from Rome.”
- Thou must indeed be a stranger,” replies the other, “not to know so holy a personage ; such as he we call the truncated Pharisee, be
cause, so deep is their meditation on holy things, they walk as if they had no legs."
“And yonder figure with a helmet, or some kind of vizor drawn down upon his face-declare to me the meaning of that riddle,” asks again the spearman.
“Ah," is the reply, “he is of another class, still more distinguished for holiness. So pure are their thoughts, that they cover their eyes from beholding aught above the ground they
" “ And lo!" the pagan cries, “ a third strange prodigy, thrusting his head among the branches, entangling himself in thickets, jostling against the by-standers, and endangering the safety of his scull at every tree or trunk. Surely he must be insane !!
“ Insane!" the other answers, pitying the ignorance of his inexperienced questioner.“ No, thou poor uncircumcised pagan, of all others this is the holiest kind of Pharisee. So bent are they on purity, that, lest the sight of women should inflame them, they shut their eyes entirely, and trust their heads to God."
6 And the more fools they!" exclaims a youthful by-stander, who has heard the dialogue, and, with this abrupt comment, glides away and disappears in the throng.
The voice is familiar; it is years since we heard it: what can the young Barabbas be doing here? Somewhat else, we fear, than confession of sins in Jordan is his mission.
Anon our attention is attracted by the brazen trumpet blast of an approaching cohort, and the tramp of armed men shakes the outer sandy platform. Disbanded from their weary nightmarch, the armed troops pour in toward the welcome river.
“ Whither away, comrade ?” exclaims the spearman to one of the new-comers, as he rests his limbs upon the grateful sward.
“Into Petra, so 'tis said in the ranks."
“In sooth, it little becomes me to tell. The fair daughter of Aretas, so it is said, not liking the manners of her lately-wedded lord, our master Herod, hath fled unto her father, and complained of barbarous usage, whether with reason or not is no affair of ours. We are going to chastise the father in recompense for the insult of the daughter."
But now from the innermost bank of the river rises clear and keen the voice that oft has made rocks and deserts ring, and hearts quake, and whose music vibrates like a bell sonorous and full. Up rise the listless idlers,