Page images
PDF
EPUB

lhe cases or doctrinęs apply, we may say is the written law of the country. These were translated out of the Arabic. they have next a general liturgy, or book of common prayer, besides several others peculiar to certain festivals, under whose names they go. The next is a very large volumnious book, called Haimanout Abou, chiefly a colleâion from the

works of different Greek fathers, treating of, or explaining several heresies, or disputed points of faith, in the ancient Greek Church, Translations of the works of St. Athanasius, St. Bazil, St, Sohn Chrysostome, and St. Cyril, are likewise current among them.

The next is the Synaxar, or tlie Flos Sanétorum, in which the miracles and lives, or lies of their faints, are at large recorded, in four monstrous volumes in folio, stuffed full of fables of the most incredible kind. They have a faint that wrestled with the devil in the shape of a serpent nine miles long, threw hin from a mountain and killed him. Another faint who converted the devil, wlio turped mon and lived in great holiness forty years after his conversion, 'doing penance for having tempted our Saviour upon the mountain : what became of him after, they do not say. Again, another faint, that never ate nor drank from his mother's womb, went to Jerusalem, and said mass every day at the holy fepulchre, and came home at night in the shape of a stork. The Jaft Mr. Bruce mentions was a saint, who, being very fick,

and his stomach in disorder, took a longing for partridges ; le called upon'a brace of them to come to-hiin, and immedi. ately two roafted partridges came flying, and rested upon his plate, to be devoured. These stories are circumstantially told and vouched by unexceptionable people, and were a grievous stumbling block to the Jesuits, who could not pretend their own miracles were either better established, or more to be credited.

The last of this Ethiopic library is the book of Enoch. Upon hearing this book firit mentioned, many literati in Eur rope had a wonderful desire to see it, thinking that, no doubt, many secreis and unknown histories might be drawn from it. Upon this, some impostor getting an Ethiopic book into his hands, wrote for the title, The Prophecies of Enoch, upon the

front

front page of it. M. Pierisc no sooner heard of it than hệ purchased it of the impoftor for a considerable sum of noney being placed afterwards in Cardinal Mazarine's library, where Mr. Ludolf had access to it; he found it was a Gnoffic book upon mysteries in heaven and earth, but which mentioned not a word of Enoch or his prophecy, from beginning to end; and, from this difappointment, he takes upon him to deny the existence of any such book any where else. This, however, is a mistake“; for, among the articles: Mt. Bruce consigned to the library at Paris, was a very beautiful and magnificent copy of the prophecies of Enoch, in large quarto ; another is amongst the books of scripture which he brought home, standing immediately before the book of Job, which is its proper place in the Abyssinian canon ; and a third copy lie presented to the Bodleian library at Oxford.

The Abyssinian annals mention an expedition to have happened into the farthest part of Arabia Felix, which the Ara

bian authors, and indeed Mahomet himself in the Koran calls by the name of the War of the Elephant, and the cause of it was as follows : There was a temple nearly in the middle of the peninsula of Arabia, that had been held in the greatest yeneration for about 1400 years. The Arabs say, that Adam, when shut out of Paradise, pitched his tent' on this spot; while Evé, from some accident or other, died and was buried on the more of the Red Sea, at Jidda: Two days journey east from this place, her grave of green fods about fifty yards in length, is shewn to this day. In this temple also was'a black stone, upon which Jacob saw the vision mentioned in scriptore, of the angels descending, and ascending into Heaven.

It is faid, with more appearance of probability, that this temple was built by Sefoftris, iri his voyage. to Arabia Felix, and that he was worshipped there under the name of Osiris.

This tower, and idol, being held in great veneration by the neighbouring nations, suggested the very natural thought of making the temple the market' for the trade from Africa and India. They chose this town in the heart of the country, accellible 'on'all sides, and cómnianded on none, calling it Becca, which fignifies the Honfe; though Mahomet, after

breaking

breaking the idol and dedicating the temple to the true God, named it Mecca, under which name it has continued, the centre or great mart of the India trade to this day.

Abreha, in order to divert this trade into a channel more convenient for his present dominions, built a very large church or temple, in the country of the Homerites, and nearer the Ocean. , To encourage also the resort to this place, he extended to it all the privileges, protection, and emoluments, that belonged to the Pagan temple of Mecca.

Anong the various tribes of Arabs, one called Beni Koreish, had the care of the Caba, the name by which the round tow. er of Mecca was called. These people were exceedingly alarmed at the prospect of their temple being at once de serted, both by its votaries and merchants, to prevent which, a party of theni, in the night, entered Abreha's temple, and having first burned what part of it could be consumed, they polluted the part that remained, by besmearing it over with human excrements.

So gross an affront could not be påssed unnoticed by Abreha, who, mounted upon a white elephant, at the head of a considerable army, resolved, in return, to destroy the temple of Mecca, and with this intent laid fiege to that place. Abou Thaleb was then keeper of the Caba, who had interest with his countrymen the Beni Koreish to prevail upon them to make no resistance, nor shew any signs of wish ing to make a defence. He had presented himself early to Abreha upon his march. There was a temple of Osiris at Tajef, which, as a rival to that of Mecca, was locked upon by the Beni Koreish with a jealous eye.' Abreha was so far milled by the intelligence given him by Abou Thaleb, that he mistook the temple of Taief for that of Mecca and'razed it to the foundation, after which he prepared to return home.

Being roon afterwards informed of his mistake, and not repenting of what he had already done, he resolved to desiroy! Mecca also. Abou Thaleb, however, had never left his side; by his great hospitality, and the plenty he procured to the Emperor's army, he so gained Abreha, that hearing, on it, quiry, he was no mean man, but a prince of the tribe of Beni Koreish, noble Arabs, he obliged him to fit in his presence, and kept him constantly with him as a companion. At last, not knowing how to reward him sufficiently, Abreha desired him to ask any thing in his power to grant, and he would satisfy him. Abou Thaleb, taking him at his word, wished to be provided with a man, that should bring back forty oxen, the soldiers had stolen from him. Abreha, who expected that the favour he was to ask, was to spare the temple, which he had in that case resolved in his mind to do, could not conceal his astonishment at so flly a request, and he could not help teftifying this to Abou Thaleb, in a manner that shewed it had lowered him in his esteem. Abou Thaleb, smiling, replied very calmly, “ If that before you is the Temple of God, as I believe it is, you shall never destroy it, if it is his will that it should stand: If it is not the Temple of God, or which is the same thing, if he has ordained that you should destroy it, I shall not only aftist you in demolishing it, but shöll help you in carrying away the last stone of it upon my shoulders : But as for me, I am a shepherd, and the care of cattle is my profession; twenty of the oxen which are stolen are not my own, and I shall be put in prison for them to-morrow; for neither you nor I can be. lieve that this is an affair God will interfere in ; and therefore I apply to you for a soldier who will seek the thief, and bring back my oxen, that my liberty be not taken froin nie.”

Abreha had now refreshed his army, and, from regard to his guest, had not touched the Temple, when, says the Arabian author, there appeared, coming from the sea, a flock of birds called Ababil, having faces like lions, and each of them in his claws holding a small stone like a pea, which he let fall upon Abreha's army, so that they all were destroyed. The author of the manuscript from which Mr. Bruce took this fable, and which is also related by several other historians, and mentioned by Mahomet in the Koran, does not seem to swal. low the story implicitly. For he says, that there is no bird that has a face like a lion ; that Abou. Thaleb was a Pagan, Mahomet being not then come, and that the Christians were worshippers of the true God, the God of Mahomet ; and, therefore, if any n:iracle was wrought here, it was a miracle of the devil, a victory in favour of Paganisin, and destructive

of

of the belief of the true God. In conclusion, he fays, that it was at this time that the small pox and measles first broke out in Arabia, and almost totally destroyed the army of Abreha. But if the stone, as big as a pea, thrown by the Ababil, had killed Abreha's arıny to the last man, it does not appear how any of them could die afterwards, either by the small-pox or measles. All that is material, however, to us, in this fact is, that the time of the siege of Mecca will be the æra of the first appearance of that terrible disease, the small-pox, which we Mall set down about the year 356 ; and it is highly prob• able, from other circumstances, that the Abysfinian army was the first vi&tini to it.

As for the church Abreha, built near the Indian Ocean, it continued free from any further insult till the Mahometan conquest of Arabia Felix, when it was finally destroyed in the Khalifat of Omar. This is the Abyssinian account,

and this the Arabian history of the War of the Elephant, which are stated as found in the books of the most credible writers of those times.

The Jewith religion had spread itself far into Arabia as early as the commencement of the African trade with Palestine ; but, after the destruction of the temple by Titus, a great increase both of number and wealth' had made that people absolute masters in many parts of that peninsula. In the Neged, and as far up as Medina, petty princes, calling themselves kings, were established, who, being trained in the wars of Palestine, became very formidable among the pacific commercial nations of Arabia, deeply funk into Greek degeneracy.

Phineas, a prince of that nation from Medina, having beat St. Aretas, the governor of Najiran, began to persecute the Christians by a new species of cruelty, by ordering certain furnaces, or pits full of fire, to be prepared, into which he threw as many of the inhabitants of Najiran as refused to renounce Christianity. Justin, the Greek Emperor, was then employed in an unsuccessful war with the Persians, so that he could not give any affistance to the afflicted Christians in Arabia, but in the year 522, he sent an embassy to Caleb, or Elefbaas, king of Abyssinia, intreating him to interfere in favour of the Christians of Najiran, as he too was of the

Greek

« PreviousContinue »