BELDAM'S RECOLLECTIONS Or ITALY AND TILE EAST.
IT armies considerable ability in a writer when he can impart in- terestb and furnish information by reminiscences of the modern grand tour ; and Mr. Beldam's travels extended not beyond the beaten route. He went up the Rhine, and passed through Switzer- land and Italy to Malta, Alexandria, and Cairo. His purpose was to have ascended the Nile, but the lateness of the season prevented him ; so he made a journey- across the Desert to the most remark-
able spots of Palestine and Syria ; closing the tour by a visit to Athens and Constantinople.
Mr. Beldam's success in an exhausted field is to be traced to several circumstances. He made the journey through Switzerland in late autumn, when snow-storms and a degree of risk attended the passage of the Alps, imparting to it something of action. He had visited Italy before ; and his reminiscences of former times not only serve as a groundwork of comparison, and furnish a kind of twofold view, but are pervaded by the sentiment of " the light of other days." He has a religious object, which gives a purpose to his travels both in Egypt and Asia, and may be described as re- ligious arekeology. In Egypt, he aims at reconciling the chrono- logy of the monuments, and of the dynasties of Manetho with that of the Bible. In Palestine, he wishes to support the correctness of tradition as regards the sites of memorable events, especially in opposition to Dr. Robinson. He has a further object, though it is not made so obvious, in an endeavour to show the effect of Mahome- tanism on the social condition of the people where it is established, and to gain an idea of the present state of Christianity in the East.
Mr. Beldam is a man of solid ability, with a cultivated and ob- servant mind, a matured taste, and considerable experience both in travel and affairs. These accomplishments guide and sharpen his observation, and give to his descriptions a solid reality, as opposite as possible to the beaten-out sketches of the mere wordmonger. More than this, they furnish him with subjects, by connecting bins with travelling companions of information, ability, and rank, whom he casually encountered, thus leading him to sources of information. It is true that his disquisitions sometimes impede his narrative, and that those which relate to Scriptural sites will seem heavy to persons who do not take much interest in the sub- ject, whether from indifference, or as thinking that over-anxiety
in such matters partakes too much of Papal superstition—
"that stray'd so far to seek In Golgotha Him dead who lives in heaven." The discussions, however, are closely and conclusively written, whatever opinion may be formed of the conclusions themselves, which sometimes perhaps are guided by the preconceived wishes of the writer.
The maturity of the traveller's mind is that which after all gives its character to the book. There is no substitute for time. Nei- ther taste nor training can attain the judgment which expe- rience and reflection reach. The art of leaving out is almost equal to that of putting in ; in fact, they are conjoined, and only acquired by long experience. "He was a scholar, and a ripe and good one"; but ripeness alone enables a scholar to use his knowledge, and, by applying it aptly to the occasion, to give fitness and freshness to that which in other hands would seem pedantic or commonplace. This maturity of mind, which looks at the real qualities instead of the shows or forms of things, often paints nature by a few touches, and gives a being to objects that thousands upon thousands have been constantly looking at and found barren. Here, in the description of an Alpine snow-storm, is a commentary on the Classics and "Paradise Lost." "The season for sledging had now come ; but no difficulty had occurred until this day, when for the first time the Gougestem began. The Gouges- tern is a hurricane resembling the snow-storms of the Arctic circle : it blows with such violence that neither man nor beast willingly faces it. It would have been better to have postponed the journey; but we were not fully aware of what we had to encounter, though informed that the mountain was terrible.' We hastened to pack ourselves in sledges • all sorts of clothing were in request—cloaks, capotes, hoods, shawls, whatever cause to hand. Each sledge carries two persons, being drawn by a single horse, and accom- panied by one or more attendants. " We had scarcely cleared the village when we discovered our error : we were in the midst of the storm, which came furiously down upon us from every gully in the mountain, accompanied with drifts of impalpable sleet and snow. The cold soon became intense, and our garments were stiffened into boards. Here was winter in all its pomp and majesty; a little too severe for our sensations, but still calling forth our utmost admiration. It was from scenes like these that Milton doubtless borrowed his conceptions of the frozen regions in the infernal world.
"At this part of the ascent we occasionally met the mountaineers, bring- ing down merchandise on sledges drawn by oxen ; strange figures of men and cattle, looming through the murky air—the rough beards and shaggy eye- brows of the drivers pendant with icicles and the hides of the beasts clotted with snow—reminding us of the winter ;ketches of Horace and Ovid."
From a dedication to Sir Robert Harry Inglis, and some other indications in the volume, Mr. Beldam would appear to be both very Protestant and very High Church. These feelings render him alive to religious topics m general, as well as to Biblical antiqui- ties. Information as to matter of fact, and various opinions as to the present state and prospects of religion on the Conti- nent and in the East, will be found in the volumes; the views de-
riving value from the circumstance that Mr. Beldam's tour was made in 1846, before the late revolutions and counter-revolutions, • Recollections of Scenes and Institutions in Italy and the East. By Joseph Bel- dam, Esq., F.B.G.S., Barrister-at-law. In two volumes. Published by Madden.
while his work has been writtensince. This is his opinion on the downfall of Popery.
"Those who are looking fore speedy-downfall of Romaniam appear to me to be making a great mistake. The errors and delusions of the Romish Church are the permanent types of a fallen humanity; and even should Ro- manism disappear, its errors and delusions would survive in new systems and
. forms. They take their rise, in short, in the natural pride which clings to the doctrine of human merit ; in the natural indifference which willingly delegates the concerns of the soul to others; in the natural self-indulgence which gladly compounds for sin by a system of penances, purgatory, and prayers for the dead; in the natural formalism which welcomes the doctrine of an opus operatum; in the natural dread which finds repose in the dogma of spiritual infallibility.
"l'opery has not created these elements ; it has merely combined them into a system, the most perfect the world has yet seen. Its downfall would not, therefore, annihilate the errors, but merely dissolve the chain which has more firmly riveted them on mankind. "Of this auspicious event, however, notwithstanding popular excitement and the prevalence of infidelity, I see no near prospect. The Papal system is not the product of yesterday, nor the offspring of chance; it is the result of firm and tenacious purpose, persevering labour, and deep and successful "The steps by which the Roman hierarchy attained its preeminence is in- sleed matter of most curious inquiry : and not less so are the artifices by which its power has been preserved ; availing itself of all expedients, bend- ing to all circumstances, and ever prompt to regain the influence it may have temporarily lost ; in darker ages unscrupulously employing the faggot and the rack ; in more enlightened times affecting the most exemplary pa- tience and resignation, and lending itself to every political system, in order to turn the distractions of society to its own advantage. It is a policy that has always succeeded, and will again succeed. Hence, the assumed humility of the ltomish agents begins once more to be laid aside, and the Church again appears in its true character.
"I remember the time when theological discussions with Protestants were courteously encouraged, difficulties were patiently considered, and objections explained away ; the Protestant was kindly assured that the differences were far less important than he imagined, and that he was much nearer Roman- ism than he supposed. The case is now altered; compromise and collusion are discarded. There is but one grand article of faith—the paramount authority of the Church : if you yield this point, minor errors may be for- given; but its rejection places you at once beyond the pale of salvation.
"But the Itornish Church is indebted not more to its subtilty than to the great variety and devotedness of its agency for its vast success. In this re- spect the Protestant Churches might take a hint, I think, with some im- provements, from their common antagonist."
There is some interesting information about the Oriental ?Churches ; whose corruptions seem to be personal rather than those of doctrine or practice.
"I do not intend to descant here on the religion of Mehemet; but I am not to be deterred by the eccentricity of some professedly Christian writers from avowine my belief, that until that fanatical and demoralizing creed—a compound ofthe hyena and the sloth—shall have finally disappeared before a more ennobling and charitable faith—a faith calling forth the energies of free will under free institutions—the social condition of mankind in those regions cannot be greatly raised. "But it is with much concern I express my fear „that the existing forms of Christianity in the East are but little calculated to aid in the accomplish- ment of this object. Not that the theological dogmas of the Greek or Oriental Church are so corrupt as many have imagined. On the contrary, it is vastly superior, in this respect, to the Church of Rome ; and would be entitled to the appellation of a Protestant Church, if it did not lay claim to the higher distinction of being an original and Apostolic one. "The Oriental Church, properly so called—not being in communion with that of Rome—acknowledges, for instance, the supremacy and sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures, though demurring to the right of private judgment. It ordains the reading of the Holy Scriptures in its daily services, and in a language that can be understood. It recognizes but one Supreme and spiritual Head. It denies the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. It ad- ministers the eucharist in both kinds. It expresses no opinion on transub- stantiation. It disallows the doctrine of purgatory ; though it admits of prayers for the dead. It altogether repudiates the use of images ; but it substitutes pictures in their stead—recognizing, in this respect, the absurd distinction between an object that casts a shadow and one that does not. It permits, moreover, of prayers to the saints, but yet affirms the sole media- tion of the Saviour. It allows the marriage of the clergy, and indirectly re- cognizes the right of the people to the choice of their pastors In theory, therefore, the Oriental Church approaches much nearer to the Scripture standard than that of Rome ; but in practice, it may be feared that the difference is small between them. The Syrian clergy, for the most part, are chosen from the lowest classes; and in education, habits, and man- ner of living, are but little distinguished from them. They are probably not less superstitious and fanatical, and certainly are far more ignorant than the 'Impish priesthood ; and an illiterate, domineering, idle clergy, must ever be averse to popular improvement. There may be patriots among them, but as a whole they cannot sincerely desire the education of the people. It would involve too much labour and self-sacrifice, too great hazard of losing influence and the means of aggrandizement. Policy, indeed, may have led them in some instances to affect the contrary. Self-defence, or emulation, may also ultimately compel them to cooperate. But, from the Greek Oriental Church, I are afraid that the regeneration of the Christian sects in Asia must never be expected. The movement in such a case must begin with a body beyond their pale. Hence the value of a Protestant Christian mission undertaking the important task of popular education in the East ; gradually preparing a native agency for the great work, and creating meanwhile an appetite for instruction, which no amount of influence will hereafter be able to withstand. I know of no institution which has more successfully carried out those ideas than the American Mission at Beirout. But others are treading in their steps ; and the Society for Improving Female Education must be numbered among the benefactors."
Among the numerous persons our traveller fell in with was a gentleman in the service of the Pasha of Egypt, who was supposed to be an European renegade ; and this encounter gives rise to a liberal consideration of a curious subject.
alt has fallen to my lot on snore than one occasion to associate with -renegades : they belong to a class whom it is almost impossible to respect, because it is impossible to believe in their sincerity; and men who arc dis- loyal to their Maker can give no guarantees to society. "The most favourable construction of their conduct is to regard them as utter unbelievers in revelation.; as men who hold religion to be important only as an instrument of government, and, concluding all religions to be equally false, give the preference to that which has the strongest hold on public opinion. It is so obvious that human laws and sanctions unaided by conscience fall Short of their object, that the ambitious and unprincipled of all sees have recognized the political necessity of religion ; and hence, *here they7have not found one adapted to their purpose, they have even set about the invention of a new one.
"Voltaire, in Ins play of' Mehemet,' puts this sentiment into the lips of the false prophet-
11 fact on entre culte; it taut de nouveaux fers;
11 faut no autre Dieu pour Paveugle univers.'
"I was curious to know what opinions were entertained on this subject by the astute effendi; and though I could not directly put the question to him, I was enabled in the course of conversation pretty well to ascertain them. They corresponded with the ideas above expressed. A semibar- barous people, he maintained, would submit to no laws which they did not believe to be Divine ; and rulers are not only at liberty therefore, but obliged, to make use of the popular superstition whatever it maybe, In this view of the case, he considered that a diversity of religions, in the pre- sent imperfect and variegated condition of human society, was a positive benefit and not an evil. At the same time, he freely admitted that Chris- tianity was the most moral of all religions, and would one day become uni- versal."
The progress of religious liberality in Turkey seems pretty much an affair of situation : in remote places, the people, if fa- natical, display their fanaticism ; at Constantinople they are more restrained. It strikes us, however, that there is one great change going on—the women seem to be under less feeling of restraint. The following incident occurred at Constantinople, and it could hardly have taken place under the old regime, when a fanatical Moslem lady would scarcely have addressed infidels. The scene of the incident was the Mosque of Solyman the Magnificent, which our traveller had been visiting with a party. "On coming out of the gate of the mausoleum, we were met by a Turkish lady and her daughter; who, astonished beyond measure to see us issuing from the sacred precincts, stopped Pittaco, and desired to know our nation and religion. The answer being unsatisfactory, the inquiry was communi- cated to us ; whereupon Lord Bernard Howard desired the Dragoman to in- form her that we were 'all Christians.' Still the lady was unsatisfied, and wished to be informed more precisely what was the nature of our religion. As our party represented not only different nations, but different creeds also, this might have been difficult; and the Dragoman was again ordered to say in general terms, that we were 'Believers in the blessed Jesus.' On this, the yasmac ' which partially concealed the lady's face was sufficiently with- drawn to exhibit an excited countenance and eyes beaming with animation. 'Yes,' she replied, but we also believe in Jesus. Jesus was one of the minor prophets ; but our prophet is hlahommed, the last and the greatest of all.' She was evidently an enthusiast, and continued to descant for some time on the prospects of Mahommedanism. She said that the young Sultan was not competent to the task of government. She then spoke of the dis- orders of the times; and ended with the consolatory assurance, that the period was approaching when all things would be rectified, for in thirty years,' she added, Mahommed himself will appear on horseback to set the world in order.' The little girl who accompanied her appeared to be very impatient during this conversation; and Pittaco afterwards told us, that she was repeatedly imploring her mother to leave the Giaou.rs ' and come away."